EU officials at a meeting on migration on Tuesday expressed concerns that Turkey’s planned operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria could spark a new migration crisis.
The decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull U.S. troops from Syria and the looming Turkish operation into the north of the country are threatening another wave of migrants taking the dangerous eastern Mediterranean route to already overcrowded refugee camps in Europe, Euractiv news site reported.
Turkish forces on Wednesday entered northeast Syria as it prepared to launch a full-scale military operation against Kurdish-led groups in control of the area.
The long-planned incursion follows an abrupt policy change by the United States, which announced a full withdrawal from the war-torn country late on Sunday.
Germany warned of a repeat of the large influx of migrants that caught the EU unprepared in 2015, while Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus cautioned against the resurgence of arrivals from neighbouring Turkey in the meeting of EU interior ministers, the site said.
A Turkish invasion may result in many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey heading to Europe to avoid being forcibly resettled into their unstable homeland, EU officials said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans to resettle up to 3 million Syrian refugees in the “safe zone” his government plans to create in northeastern Syria.
Amnesty International, in a statement it issued on Wednesday, also expressed concerns regarding the civilians at risk with the Turkish incursion.
“Both Turkish and Kurdish forces have a track record of carrying out indiscriminate attacks in Syria that have killed scores of civilians,’’ Amnesty’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said.
Maalouf called on all sides in the conflict to “respect international humanitarian law, including by refraining from carrying out attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.’’
In its safe zone plan, Ankara aims to clear its border of the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara sees the YPG as security threat due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war with the Turkish state for over 30 years.