Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged world leaders on Tuesday to help it resettle 1 million Syrian refugees as soon as possible, accusing governments of moving faster towards guarding Syria’s oil fields than its children.
Erdogan, whose country hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population worldwide, said more than 600,000 should voluntarily join around 371,000 already in a “peace zone” in northern Syria from which Turkey drove Kurdish militia.
“I think the resettlement can easily reach 1 million in a very short period of time,” Erdogan told the Global Forum on Refugees in Geneva.
The plan was met with doubt from Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who said that while Turkey was far ahead in terms of hosting refugees, resettling Arab refugees in areas previously populated by Kurds was wrong.
“I hope this will not happen, really. It shouldn’t happen,” Egeland told media sources.
Turkey has said it expected the Syrian Kurdish refugees it hosts, who number around 300,000 to be the first to return to the area between the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad.
Fillipo Grandi, U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, said returns must be voluntary, refugees should be given aid and property and other legal issues should be addressed.