Report warns of growing risk of provocation involving Syrian refugees

Report warns of growing risk of provocation involving Syrian refugees

The Cilvegözü refugee camp in Antakya is one of 13 camps established by Turkish authorities for Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their country. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

May 10, 2013, Friday/ 16:51:00

Given that several incidents have already occurred in the provinces where Syrian refugees are being accommodated in the Southeast, a new report released by the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) warns that there is a growing risk of provocation and manipulations that may lead to major problems involving Syrian refugees in the near future. 

“As the crisis in war-torn Syria continues, the number of incidents provoked by some groups in order to create tension in the places where refugees are living will increase,” warned Osman Bahadır Dinçer, a Middle East expert at the think tank that produced the report, on Friday, adding that security concerns were escalating in the camps where the Syrian citizens are staying.   

Recently, Syrian youths got into a fight with Turkish youths in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay, which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees. Following the fight, the Turkish group carried Turkish flags around the city and protested the presence of the Syrians.

The USAK report underlines the fact that the region is facing the risk of political, humanitarian and security crises, noting that the refugee issue has several aspects. It cautions that if no further precautions are taken, there could be a great potential for problems occurring in the areas where camps are located.

“Turkey should have Plan B for the refugee issue because if the situation is prolonged, in the long term this issue will be a serious headache for Turkey,” added Dinçer.

Since the very beginning, Turkey, a staunch opponent of the Syrian regime, has opened its doors to Syrians who have fled the raging civil war in their country.

The report underlines, however, that in some of the host cities the refugees outnumber the local residents. "For instance the population in Reyhanlı is 60,000 and there are now 80,000 refugees,“ said Dinçer.

According to the report, currently Turkey is hosting 192,770 refugees in established camps and that there are an additional 250,000 staying in various Turkish provinces.

Other than Turkey, there are also significant numbers of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. UN authorities estimate the total number of refugees could hit 1 million in the near future.

According to a survey conducted by USAK, the vast majority of the Syrian refugees (88.1 percent) were happy with the services provided in the Turkish camps. Turkey, in addition to providing shelter for the refugees, is also providing services such as healthcare and education in the camps. However, health services are the primary source of dissatisfaction for the refugees. When asked what most satisfied those in the camps, the majority of the respondents replied that it was the security service.

The majority of the refugees indicated that do not believe that a sectarian conflict would emerge in Syria in the event of embattled President Bashar al-Assad's fall.

The scenario of the emergence of a sectarian war following the collapse of the Assad regime is one of the main arguments put forward by the Syrian government so far. However, according to Dinçer, Syrian refugees are aware of the regime's game, which is to create fear among the people about the post-Assad era.

The report also underlined that 84 percent of the refugees want to return to Syria after the war ends.

More than half of the refugees, 59.2 percent, want to see a democratic system established in the post war-era and 78. 9 percent of the respondents said that they do not believe that Syria's territorial integrity is threatened and that there is no risk of it being partitioned in the post-war era.

The report also emphasizes that Turkey has spent a total of TL 2 billion taking care of Syrian refugees that have taken shelter in the country, of which TL 852 million was spent by the Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

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