Increasing debates on refugees are gaining new momentum as fresh images exhibit the irregular Afghan influx into Turkey. This reveals how unprepared we are, even though reality afforded us more than ample time. Our irregular migration and refugee policies are virtually dependent on the time frame or vision the incoming refugees set for themselves.
Those seeking asylum in Turkey from clashes or unrest plaguing their native lands migrate with the assumption that they will shortly return to their homes. Some also consider Turkey as a stepping stone before crossing over into Europe. Yet, the unrest in question never ends at the allotted timespan. The anticipated improvement in these refugees’ home countries (Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, other Central Asian Turkic republics) that will naturally pave the way for their return does not come to pass. Hence, their stay is inevitably prolonged; and the longer they stay, the more integrated they become with society. However, our perspective on refugees, our expectations, and our policies are established based on their transience.
Of course, an international contribution is necessary to create a satisfactory environment for their return. Thus, the safe zones that Turkey formed in Syria not only kept more Syrians at home but also ensured that people were not left to die or starve. Similarly, one objective of Turkey’s diplomacy in Afghanistan is to nip migration in the bud. The most effective way to do that is to improve the conditions driving Afghanistan’s people abroad. Thus, Turkey sustains a favorable rapport with the Taliban and the Afghan government to contribute to this improvement.
Returning to the matter at hand; migrant policies are not established based on the assumption that those migrants will return home. A country like Turkey, which has received migrants throughout its history, needs to develop a more elaborate, institutional, and serious policy with the contribution of sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists, among other numerous scientists and scholars. In this respect, Turkey’s migration authority needs to restructure irregular migration with a philosophy other than perceiving it as a security issue.
Even though we repeatedly experienced this throughout history, although Anatolia is almost entirely a migrant community, we now face the catastrophe of former arrivals rejecting the newcomers.
Essentially, this is a natural reaction observed in all migrant societies. Rejection, anti-migrant sentiment, and xenophobia materialize as a grave consequence in every community that takes in migrants. The humanitarian aspects of the policies followed by Europe and the U.S. to deal with this controversy have always been a matter of debate. Left-wing politics presents its strongest argument against anti-migrant policies in these countries as follows: The reason behind migration is the unrest and dilapidated atmospheres caused as a result of the imperial interventions of Europe and the U.S. Therefore, capitalist states need to assume responsibility and avoid sealing off their gates to migrants. Those colonized by capitalist states have a right to welfare and prosperity, and they will come to claim their rights. Hence, shutting the door in their faces is another humanitarian irresponsibility.
Indeed, U.S. operations in Latin America are making those countries uninhabitable. As a result, an exodus becomes inevitable. However, there has always been a political inclination in the U.S. ready to sympathize with migration. Besides, migration to the U.S. has been considered an opportunity for national growth, cultural pluralism, and diversity.
Inflowing migration to European countries, particularly those from the U.K., the Netherlands, and France’s colony countries, is, in a sense, the result of the policies of these countries in the source country. But these migrations were both largely foreseen and considered a channel to effectively maintain relations with colony countries. The direct and indirect contributions these migrations make to the economy are a different matter altogether. The Indian, Pakistani, Bengal diasporas in the U.K. today, including the diasporas of other African countries, make up a serious population. Let us note that London has a Muslim mayor; you figure out the rest. However, there is no hide nor hair in the U.K. of the anti-migrant sentiment we witness in Turkey.
Naturally, an anti-migrant faction exists there as well. However, they do not express their views or reactions in the derogatory manner seen in our country – even if they do, they cannot find as many supporters as those in Turkey.
There is no doubt that the Turkish mayor of Bolu claiming that he would increase the prices of foreigners’ water and electricity bills by tenfold was fed by ignorant racism. Such a magnitude of ignorance is observed to a certain extent in every society. However, the fact that this hostility has so many supporters and encouragement means that it has become a serious issue for the community.