Istanbul, June 18 () - President Tayyip Erdoğan and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres will join refugees in southeastern Turkey for traditional Islamic fast-breaking dinner, on June 20.
Erdoğan and Guterres will together mark World Refugee Day in Mardin, a town bordering Syria that is home to many refugees fleeing both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Upon launching the UNHCR’s 2014 Global Trends report in Istanbul on June 17, the High Commissioner will meet senior government officials including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the Turkish capital Ankara.
According to the Prime Ministry’s Directorate-General of Press and Information, the High Commissioner will travel to Mardin to assess the situation on the ground and meet President Erdoğan.
Turkey, which adopted an open door policy toward displaced Syrians in 2011, has since become the world’s biggest refugee host. According to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the number of Syrian asylum-seekers has exceeded 1.8 million following the most recent influx of some 23,000 civilians escaping clashes between ISIL jihadists and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), amid anti-ISIL coalition airstrikes near Tal Abyad.
Over 275,000 refugees currently live in temporary housing centers across the country, a spokesperson for AFAD stated on June 17, and the Turkish government has devoted over $5.7 billion to relief efforts in the past four years.
“Although the international community praises Turkey’s efforts, they contribute 5 cents on the dollar with the Turkish government picking up the rest of the check” the spokesperson stated.
The rising number of refugees was also a prominent feature ahead of the recent general election, with Erdoğan reiterating Turkey’s commitment to helping refugees amid criticism.
“We reach out to people in need, regardless of the color of their skin and the language they speak. We will continue to assist whoever might find themselves in need” he said last week.