This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated his threat to “open the gates” to Europe for Syrian refugees if the European Union doesn’t provide additional support for them.
While speaking alongside Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest on November 7, Erdogan said Turkey can’t carry the burden of housing refugees alone.
Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, with about 3.6 million registered Syrian nationals, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Part of Turkey’s objective when invading northeastern Syria in October was to establish a buffer zone where it wants to resettle 2 million Syrian refugees.
This plan is unpopular with human rights groups and European countries, and has received mostly negative reactions from fellow NATO member states.
Under a 2016 readmission agreement with the EU, Turkey committed to accepting any undocumented immigrants from the EU that came from Turkey.
In return, Ankara received $3.3 billion in immediate aid and an identical amount at the end of 2018.
Altogether, Erdogan has estimated Turkey has received $7 billion in refugee aid money. Erdogan floated the figure at a Syria summit in September while hosting the leaders of Iran and Russia during which he threatened to send the refugees to Europe.
However, by his accounting, Erdogan said Turkey has spent $40 billion to support the refugees.
“Whether we receive support or not, we will continue to aid the guests we are hosting. But, if this doesn’t work out, then we will have to open the doors,” Erdogan said.