Once the self-proclaimed magnanimous patron of all Sunnis, Erdogan now wants the refugees to go home. Turkish authorities have stepped up house searches and arrests of Syrian refugees. The state has tried to move refugees out of the major cities, and the police have set up a hotline to collect information on those who enter the country illegally. Some have reportedly been deported to the Syrian city of Idlib, even as the fighting there intensifies.
Forcing hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of Syrian refugees out of the country and back into a war zone is nearly impossible, but Erdogan thinks otherwise. His solution, recently laid out in a speech at the UN General Assembly, is to carve out a large buffer zone along Syria’s border with Turkey. The area would be 300 miles long and 20 miles deep, under Turkish control, and off-limits to Kurdish forces. According to Erdogan, this “safe zone” would host two million to three million refugees, thus ridding Ankara of a major domestic headache.
It would boast 200,000 homes, along with hospitals, football pitches, mosques, and schools, Turkish-built but financed internationally—a setup that would provide much-needed revenue for Turkey’s struggling construction sector at a time of economic downturn.
Securing funding for this idea is a tall order, but Erdogan is willing to push the envelope. In September, he threatened that he would “open the gates” and set off another European refugee crisis if he did not get his way.
Source: Turkey’s Endgame in Syria