President Erdoğan Attends…

President Erdoğan Attends Leaders’ Summit on Refugees

President Erdoğan, who is in New York to attend the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, addressed a speech at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. Drawing attention to Turkey’s efforts to handle the refugee issue, President Erdoğan underlined that the international community had left Turkey alone in its efforts.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a speech at the Leaders’ Summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama on the margins of UNGA 71. Posing for a family photo prior to the summit with other participants, President Erdoğan thereafter proceeded to the venue of the summit.

Kicking off his address by thanking U.S. President Obama for holding the summit at a sensitive time when a global refugee crisis was underway, President Erdoğan pointed out that the number of refugees broke new records every year, and said: “Nearly 600 thousand people have been killed so far in the civil war going on for almost six years. The number of those that had to leave their homes has reached 12 million while the number of those that had to leave their country has reached 5 million. We are hosting in our country about 3 million of the Syrians that had left their own country. Keep in mind that the numbers I am giving here refer to human beings. We cannot expedite the resolution of the issue unless we endeavor to get a grasp of the tragedy so many people go through by empathizing with them.”


“Images of the Aylan baby’s dead body washing ashore cannot have been erased from our memories. And we also surely haven’t forgotten the images of little Omran, sitting in the ambulance innocently, with his whole body covered in blood and dust after being rescued from the rubble of his home which had been bombed,” President Erdoğan said and he continued: “We also must be recalling the refugee tripped up while running after a hope with his child in his arms risking his life to reach European countries. These are just examples of what has been lived. The international community, regrettably, couldn’t uphold humanitarian and moral values within that period and thus scored very badly. No one can remain innocent in a world where babies, women and civilians are killed. We know that this humanitarian and moral destruction aggravates with every passing day and hour. We should take action immediately, swiftly and resolutely in order to put an end to these crises for which we are already late. Otherwise, we cannot explain to future generations and the history why we were late to prevent the oppression although we had the means.”

Noting that he, as the President of one of the countries that host the largest number of refugees in the world, would like to share some data on what Turkey has done so far and his opinion about what should be done, President Erdoğan underlined that since the beginning Turkey has kept and will keep its gates open to everybody that flees the oppression, and said: “We approached everybody that has come to our country with the same sensitivity irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, sect and race. We continue to meet all the needs of Syrian and Iraqi refugees that currently number over 3 million.”


President Erdoğan underscored that the registered spending Turkey has made for refugees so far surpassed 12 billion dollars, adding that an equivalent amount of additional spending has been made by NGOs as well. The President further stressed: “In return, all the support we received from the entire world amounts to just 512 million dollars. We don’t want to confine refugees to camps. We don’t want to continue the process with tent and container cities. While 300 thousand out of those nearly 3 million refugees are hosted in tent and container cities, others stay at houses across various cities. We allow refugees to live and work in cities so as to enable them to stand on their own feet. In this regard, we have commenced the process for granting them citizenship. This of course poses a social risk as well. We have taken this risk and by no means regret doing so. Thus far we have provided vocational training to about 15 thousand Syrians and integrated them into work life.”

Stating that they, as Turkey, have been working at every opportunity to move the refugee crisis higher on the international agenda by making an emphasis on the strong link between the migration and development, President Erdoğan said: “We brought up this issue during our term presidency of the G20 last year and at the G20 Summit in China last month. We also carried out works aimed at raising awareness on the issue during our term presidency of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. The first-ever Word Humanitarian Summit hosted by Turkey last year was a historic event in this direction. We will continue these works in the upcoming period.”


Highlighting that “there are about 835 thousand school-age Syrian children in Turkey,” President Erdoğan expressed that 310 thousand of those children have started school thanks to the efforts and means of the state and NGOs. Describing their goal as to enable each and every child to go to school, President Erdoğan invited all countries and relevant civil actors to contribute to efforts Turkey exerts to achieve that goal.

Stressing the importance of refugees having the opportunity to settle in other countries as well, President Erdoğan expressed his hope that the targeted number the UNHCR has set for resettlement be reached in the shortest time possible.

While providing shelter to Syrians inside its borders, Turkey at the same takes concrete steps towards the prevention of irregular migration, President Erdoğan underscored and he continued: “We have developed an important framework of cooperation with the EU against the refugee crisis over the past one year. Accepting that we can overcome the issue by sharing the burden and responsibility, we have made mutual commitments. Thanks to the measures we have taken accordingly, we managed to lower the daily irregular migration from 7 thousand in October 2015 to as many as 50 recently. This table shows that Turkey has duly delivered on its commitments emanating from its agreement with the EU. On the other hand, the promises the EU gave to Turkey in the deal struck on March 18, 2016 haven’t been kept yet. Turkey, which has been left alone since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, had to face the same consequence once again. We will overcome this issue one way or another. However, the international community, the EU in particular, can by no means give an account of the inconsistency it has displayed in such a fundamental humanitarian crisis.”

Underlining the impossibility of handling the refugee issue without a fair burden sharing, President Erdoğan concluded his address by voicing his wish that this summit be conducive to new commitments and to the days when these commitments might be delivered on.

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