Rising anti-refugee sentiments in Europe led EU to try to use 3rd countries, like Turkey, as buffer zones, says academic.

The EU is working to externalize the problem of refugees by keeping them in third countries like Turkey and promising funding, said a speaker at the Turkish-based TRT World Forum Digital Debates on Friday.

“Refugee rights were developed in Europe, but now they don’t want refugees,” Ulas Sunata, a senior scholar of migration studies at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, told the forum, organized by Turkish national broadcaster TRT.

“European countries, which are fearful of refugees and migrants, are seeking ways to keep them out,” she told the event, which marks the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Underling the growing hostility towards refugees in EU countries, fueled by the media, Sunata said that in contrast, Turkey pursued a morals-based open-door policy towards Syrians fleeing the Syrian civil war.

“No country has shown as large a response to the Syrian refugees as Turkey,” she said.

Mentioning how Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, she said it also quickly developed effective policies to deal with the refugee issue.

“When Syrians started to arrive in Turkey, their stay was anticipated to be temporary, not this long. This is to say, the country wasn’t ready. However, notwithstanding some deficiencies and problems, it did its best to deal with the issue,” she said.

On the importance of education for Syrians’ integration into Turkish society, she said: “Boosting the percentage of Syrian children enrolled in Turkish schools and teaching all Syrians Turkish would play a very positive role.”

The forum’s discussion, 10 Years On: Syrian Refugees in Turkey, was streamed live on TRT World Forum’s YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011, when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters. In the decade since, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million remain displaced, according to UN estimates.​​​​​​​

Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million refugees – more than any country in the world.