Turkey is working with the United Nation’s refugee agency to repatriate Syrians to their home country, the Turkish Foreign Minister said Sunday.
His comments are at odds with the UNHCR’s overall policy toward returning migrants to Syria, a country that it still considers too dangerous to send refugees back to.
“We are now receiving better support from the international community for the safe return and repatriation of refugees,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “We are working to repatriate refugees, especially in Syria, especially with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.”
Responding to those remarks, UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said only a political solution in Syria would allow people to return, adding that refugees should have the right to voluntarily return in “safe and dignified conditions.”
Turkey holds the world’s largest refugee population while Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq also hold significant numbers of Syrians.
Mr. Cavusoglu was speaking at a ceremony in the southern province of Antalya following a visit to Turkey days earlier by UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, during which he met Mr. Cavusoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mr. Grandi thanked Turkey for hosting 3.7 million Syrians and 330,000 other refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Afghans.
Mr. Cavusoglu said the international community must work together to resolve migration.
“It’s not right to look at this from a security standpoint,” he said. “It’s wrong to look at it in a racist and fascist way. On the other hand, if it is a social problem, it is necessary to evaluate it calmly together and find a solution by producing new policies.”
In 2016, Turkey signed a deal with the European Union to keep Syrians from moving to Europe in return for funding after more than one million migrants from Syria and elsewhere entered the 27-country bloc in 2015.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.