By Ozgur Ayaydin, Selahattin Erol, and Zuhal Demirci
ANKARA / MARDIN, Turkey
A visiting top UN official said on Tuesday that Turkey deserves gratitude for its generous hosting of millions of refugees.
“We thank Turkey for its generous approach in hosting 3.5 million people who left their homes to save their lives. We need to thank the Turkish state because of the good conditions [here],” said Ursula Mueller, the UN’s assistant secretary-general for humanitarian aid and deputy emergency relief coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Visiting the Midyat Temporary Accommodation Center in Mardin, southeastern Turkey, which houses Syrian and Iraqi refugees, Mueller learned about the center from local official Huseyin Tekin.
Mueller also visited the center’s school and handed out toys to the students together with chief presidential advisor Ayse Turkmenoglu and met with Ezidis who were forced to flee Iraq.
“We thank Turkey for providing this opportunity. They are making all efforts to meet our needs at the center. Under these conditions, we don’t want to return to Iraq. We want to stay here,” said one of the Ezidis.
Speaking to reporters, Mueller said: “I am very impressed with what I saw at the center. I saw people being offered good conditions and treated well.”
Mueller stated that that the UN would help with the center’s electricity and heating costs.
“When I return to the UN, I will speak to the secretary-general and say that this camp should be a model for how to manage a camp,” she said.
– UNHCR grateful towards Turkey
The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, is grateful for Turkey’s treatment of refugees, said Pascale Moreau, the UNHCR Turkey representative, at the opening ceremony of a photo exhibit in the capital Ankara marking June 20 World Refugee Day.
Moreau said that 90 percent of the more than 3 million refugees in Turkey live outside the camps in local communities.
“The UNHCR is grateful to the Turkish people and authorities for the generosity and hospitality they have shown, which cannot be measured statistically,” she said.
Moreau added that Turkey hosts 300,000 refugees apart from the Syrians counted by the UNHCR.
According to UN, Turkey is the top refugee host in the world, being home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees. This number accounts for over 50 percent of the 5.5 million Syrian refugees in the world. Turkey has so far spent $25 billion on the refugees, while receiving only $725 million from the European Union, and $550 million from the UN Refugee Agency, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in April. But Turkey will continue to help out refugees “with or without outside help,” he added.