The Turkish president has asked Europe to welcome more of the 3 million refugees currently living in Turkey, as the main group campaigning to take Britain out of the EU suggested that higher levels of immigration from Turkey could pose a security risk if the country is admitted to the EU.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that Europe was not doing enough to shoulder the refugee burden in Turkey, which now holds more refugees than any other country in the world, after the Syrian civil war forced 2.7 million Syrians to flee northwards across the Turkish border.
The president made his comments as he confirmed Binali Yıldırım as the new prime minister, following the ousting of his predecessot Ahmet Davutoğlu earlier in the month for allegedly blocking Erdoğan’s path to power. Yıldırım, a long-time ally, vowed to give greater authority to the president’s office while eroding the powers of the prime minister.
Erdoğan’s remarks on migration may unknowingly fan the flames of an ongoing debate in Britain, where one of the campaigns calling for Brexit claimed the UK faced a huge influx of Turkish immigrants if Britain continued its membership of the union and Turkey was allowed to join it.
Writing in the Guardian, Erdoğan drew British readers’ attention to a different kind of migration flow from Turkey – that of Syrian refugees. Turkey expects western countries such as Britain to step up the formal resettlement of Syrians on Turkish soil, particularly after Turkey agreed in March to readmit all asylum seekers arriving by sea to Greek shores.