Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged world powers on Tuesday to help it resettle 1 million Syrian refugees very soon, accusing governments of moving more quickly to guard Syria’s oil fields than its children.
Erdogan, whose country hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population worldwide, said more than 600,000 should voluntarily join around 371,000 already in a “peace zone” in northern Syria from which Turkey drove Kurdish militia.
“I think the resettlement can easily reach 1 million in a very short period of time,” Erdogan told the Global Forum on Refugees in Geneva.
The plan met with scepticism from Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who said that while Turkey was far ahead in terms of hosting refugees, resettling Arab refugees in areas previously populated by Kurds was wrong.
“I hope this will not happen, really. It shouldn’t happen,” Egeland told Reuters.
Turkey has said it expected the Syrian Kurdish refugees it hosts, who number around 300,000, to be the first to return to the area between the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad.
Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said returns must be voluntary, refugees should be given support and property and other legal issues must be addressed.
“We are also urging the Syrian authorities to allow us a presence in the areas where people return because this could be a confidence-building measure,” Grandi told a news conference.