The number of irregular migrants who left Turkey for Europe reached 80,888 in the past several days, the head of Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate, Fahrettin Altun, has said, the Anadolu news agency reported.
“This number may increase in the following days,” Altun said in a series of tweets on Sunday.
He said Turkey was preparing for an irregular migration flow, calling on the EU and other countries to share the burden. “Turkey has been left alone in this struggle,” he added.
Altun said “temporary protection” for Syrians in Turkey is continuing, adding: “None of our Syrian brothers & sisters has been asked to leave. If they choose to stay, they can. If they choose to leave, they can.”
“We have modified our policy and we will not stop refugees from leaving Turkey. Given our limited resources, we are focusing on planning for contingencies in case of further inflows from Syria instead of preventing refugees who intend to migrate to Europe,” the communications director said.
Turkey said on Thursday it would no longer prevent hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory from reaching Europe despite a deal to do so reached with the EU in 2016.
Turkey’s turnabout came after an airstrike killed 36 Turkish soldiers in neighboring northwest Syria, where Ankara has deployed forces to help secure its border against a new influx of refugees from the Syrian civil war.
Altun said some migrants had decided to leave Turkey following the policy change.
“Turkey can no longer accept additional refugees from the Idlib region in Syria but we are preparing for any irregular migration flows. Europe and others must take robust action to address this monumental challenge. We can’t be expected to do this on our own,” he added.
He noted that Turkey hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, saying, “We are proud to have spent our national resources to help our brothers and sisters thanks to the generosity of Turkish people.”