Turkey’s humanitarian activities toward Syrian refugees are part and parcel of its overall policy in the Syria conflict. Yet, it has become increasingly clear that the Turkish government has overestimated its capacities, and thus failed to deliver sufficient assistance to Syrian refugees on its territory. At the same time the government’s handling of the refugee issue has led to stark tensions among Turkey’s political and societal forces, as Turkey’s border regions contend with increasing security and economic challenges. Germany and its European partners should support Turkey in maintaining and improving services to Syrian refugees in Turkey, and in delivering aid more effectively to internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside Syria. They should also push Turkey to adopt a long-term strategy for dealing with Syrian refugees.
The recent flow of Syrian-Kurdish refugees from the region of Ayn al-Arab (in Kurdish: Kobanê) to Turkey is just one of many episodes in which Turkey has been affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Indeed, ever since the militarization of the Syrian uprising in mid-2011 Turkey has seen an influx of refugees from its neighboring country. In early 2011, after the Turkish government failed to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to engage in profound reforms that could have contained the crisis, Ankara took a clear stance against the Assad regime: it sought the international isolation of the regime; it hosted, supported and overtly influenced the armed and unarmed opposition; it tried to shape the international coalition through the so-called “Group of Friends of the Syrian People”; and it welcomed refugees and provided humanitarian assistance to civilians and IDPs inside Syria.