Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has clarified earlier remarks about sending “15,000 refugees to Europe
each month,” saying he was only referring to “irregular migrants” who already try to reach other countries by sea.
Soylu said on March 16 that Turkey could send back 15,000 refugees a month amid a recent diplomatic crisis between Ankara
and Germany and the Netherlands that stemmed from the latter’s decision to bar Turkish ministers from staging rallies there.
“I made a statement sometime in the previous days. I said, ‘If you want, we can open the doors and we’ll send 15,000 refugees a month to you.’ Those who don’t ‘follow life’ and utter words just for the sake of opposition thought that we would send those who took refuge in us,” Soylu said at an event in the northwestern province of Edirne late on March 19, adding that this was not the case.
Soylu also criticized daily Cumhuriyet for “distorting his comments” on the issue.
“Why are we in [Syria’s] Jarablus then?” he asked. “We provided security for 30,000 in Jarablus” who have been sent there.
“However, what I talked about were irregular migrants. Ignorant people, who don’t read and write and whose names are writers but don’t know anything about the world and who have filled their hearts only with hatred, thought otherwise,” he added.
During his speech, Soylu said Turkey apprehended around 15,000 migrants a month on average in 2016 as they attempted to cross to other countries by sea.
“We are calling them irregular migrants. We could’ve withdrawn, not caught them and opened the way to send them to Europe. However, we caught them to abide by the agreement,” he said, referring to a readmission deal between the European Union
and Turkey to return migrants to Turkey who have illegally crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece.
As part of the agreement, Greek
officials are obliged to return refugees trying to reach Western European countries via Greece
and return them to Turkey.
“We abided by the deal, but they [Europe] didn’t abide by any article of it. They don’t have the intention to do so, because they are making monetary calculations night and day,” he said.