Almost 28,000 Syrian refugees have left a camp located in Suruc district of Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province since the beginning of April, according to a report by Al-Monitor news portal.
The camp, which was opened to service in March 2015, has become Turkey’s biggest one with more than 35,000 inhabitants since then.
The refugees had to leave the camp following a decision by Turkish authorities to officially shut it down on June 21, which was previously announced by the Ministry of Interior’s Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM).
As part of the decision, the camp in the Ceylanpinar district of Sanliurfa is also expected to be officially closed at the same time.
Stating it can no longer afford the high costs of the camps and that refugees, living isolated in the camps, face difficulties integrating into Turkish social life, Ankara has been systematically closing down the refugee camps since late 2018.
So far the government has officially closed six refugee camps in Adiyaman, Gaziantep and Kilis provinces, compelling their inhabitants to leave the area.
Moving to the larger cities in Turkey and returning to war-torn Syria are the two options faced by those refugees, Al-Monitor said.
According to some critics, experts and human rights activists, the main reason behind the Turkish government’s move to close the camps is not high costs of camps or the integration issues of Syrians.
Omar Kadkoy, a policy analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), held forth that Turkey’s move to shut down refugee camps has to do with contextualizing Syrians’ repatriation.
“The decision also stems from the associated costs of running camps. Refugee encampment in Turkey means full governmental accommodation, which is a difficult situation to sustain, especially with the ongoing economic limbo,” Kadkoy, who is also Syrian, told Al-Monitor.
As of May 2019, only four percent of over 3.6 million Syrians — who are registered as being under temporary protection in Turkey — live in camps while the remaining 96 percent live in cities, according to the data released by the Ministry of Interior.
Experts predict that Ankara’s process to close refugee camps will continue in the months to come, until all of the 21 camps in the country, which hosted some 292,000 Syrians, are shut down.
Only 13 of the camps have remained open and they currently host some 117,000 Syrians.
According to Al-Monitor, there’s uncertainty concerning the destination preferences of those who have left the camps.