Turkey tightens border security ahead of possible new wave of Syrian refugees

A young boy holds onto a fence in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, in this file photo. (AP)
Updated 13 August 2017
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Turkey tightens border security ahead of possible new wave of Syrian refugees

ANKARA: Amid speculation about a fresh wave of refugees into Turkey through its 150 km border with Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, Ankara is making its national stance clear: The maintenance of national security is a key priority.
On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Turkey is taking necessary measures on this specific part of the border, across which lies an area of Syria where radicals connected to a former Al-Qaeda offshoot have gained control. Turkey also recently restricted the passage of non-humanitarian goods at the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing into Idlib.
Turkey currently holds some 3 million Syrian refugees, making Ankara the world’s largest host of refugees. The refugee camps are also providing aid along the border. The Turkish Red Crescent has already helped the refugees by distributing clothing and toiletries in Idlib, and in June began a housing project there that is expected to cover about 1,000 properties.
Turkey earlier this year completed the construction of a 700 km wall along the Syria border, controlled by a sensor system, cameras and drones.
Dr. Bora Bayraktar of the International Relations Department at Istanbul Kultur University said considering the US-led international coalition’s impending bombing campaign in the region and the possibility that the regime forces may counteract this move, civilians in Idlib may be obliged to move toward the Turkish border.
“However, Turkey doesn’t seem to welcome such a massive refugee influx for now. Ankara wants to manage the crisis on the other side of the border through diplomatic channels,” Bayraktar told Arab News.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday told reporters that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization is holding negotiations with Russia and Iran about the swift resolution of the Idlib issue.
According to Bayraktar, resolving this issue with local partners diplomatically is the best solution for now.
“Turkey is already hosting a great number of refugees and (upholding its) financial, social and humanitarian responsibilities. On the other hand, it is building walls along its border with Syria, along with increased border security measures,” Bayraktar said.
“There is a risky jihadist presence in Idlib and it will be very difficult to differentiate (between) civilians and jihadists during a possible passage through Turkish gates. Even PYD militia (members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) may infiltrate into the country,” he added.
However, Metin Corabatir, former spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Turkey and president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration in Ankara, thinks that if there is a refugee influx toward Turkey due to a possible bombing campaign, it will be against international norms to reject them.
“Since the beginning of the conflict, Turkey adopted an open-door policy, and since 2014 it has a necessary legislative framework to regulate such refugee waves with the aim of managing the refugee issue in a systematic way,” Corabatir told Arab News.
Corabatir noted that if refugees from Idlib come across the border in large numbers, Turkey will be obliged to establish registration facilities, before directing people to refugee camps in Turkey. “If armed groups are also present among these refugee groups, they should be treated separately, be disarmed and be subject to necessary international norms if they are war criminals.”
Ayselin Yildiz, an expert on immigration at Izmir’s Yasar University, noted however that the 22 refugee camps in Turkey’s 10 provinces are already full. “Turkey was planning to extend its hosting capacity in case of a mass flow from Aleppo or Idlib last year, so there were some preparations, however, they might be limited,” Yildiz told Arab News.
“In case of such a huge flow, Turkey would certainly need urgent and concrete cooperation, assistance of international society and organizations.”
Yildiz thinks that Turkey would probably not reject people on the border, not just because of its international obligations but also due to its humanitarian approach. “We do not know whether these people will prefer to remain in Turkey or trigger another flow toward Europe,” she added.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.