Turkish parliament speaker accuses Europe of taking 'zero responsibility' for migration issues
The speaker of Turkey’s parliament criticized Western countries for failing to take any responsibility for addressing migration problems in the region at a gathering of the Council of Europe on Sunday.
At a press conference on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Spain’s capital Madrid, Mustafa Sentop castigated what he said was inaction from the European Union (E.U) and the United States in alleviating the burden that comes with hosting migrants fleeing conflict in the region.
“There are millions of migrants in the world who have to leave their countries. Migration from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan is being experienced a lot, especially in Europe, which includes Turkey,” said Sentop.
In particular, Sentop criticised E.U politicians who he said “spend time from morning to night talking about issues completely unrelated to the problem.” He went on to accuse the United States and "parts of Europe" for contributing to the problem through policies that led to people fleeing their homes in the first place.
"Those who force people to migrate from their homes and then avoid taking the responsibility in the humanitarian crisis that has arisen. The Mediterranean has turned into a mass grave of migrants,” he stressed.
Turkey currently hosts close to four million refugees, who arrive from places like Syria and Afghanistan which have been engulfed in civil wars. Many of these migrants want to journey on to settle in Europe, but a 2016 migration pact was secured between Turkey and the E.U to stem the flow of migrants to the bloc.
Sentop also took a moment to criticise Greece for its policies towards migrants. In his remarks, he said Greece was engaging in “inhuman practices” that include pushbacks at sea and purposely sinking vessels trying to make the trip.
Greece has been accused by international humanitarian organisations of engaging in harsh tactics to discourage migrants from arriving on their territory. Turkish state outlets have repeatedly emphasised that Greek officials have used force to drive back migrant boats in the Eastern Mediterranean, but Athens has defended its policy as “tough but fair.”
Beyond migrants looking to cross Turkey’s land and maritime borders to reach European shores, a number of migrants traveled to Turkish cities en-route to Belarus. The regime of President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged their travel to usher them onto the border with Poland, creating a crisis on the border.
After reports emerged about Turkish Airlines flights contributing to the humanitarian situation along the Polish-Belarusian border, the airline took action to stem these trips.
For all its complaints aimed at Brussels, Turkey has been accused of violating the rights of migrants by humanitarian organisations. European countries have also charged Turkey with encouraging migration to Europe to create pressure in violation of the 2016 agreement.
Anti-migrant sentiments have run high in Turkey since the onset of neighbouring Syria’s civil war in 2011. This has resulted in increased public hostility towards migrants, a sentiment fueled by an ailing economy and high unemployment.