Turkey will send captured IS fighters back to their home country from Monday, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu says to state media on Friday. According to the minister, all prisoners come from Europe. It is not yet clear how many people are involved.
Soylu announced his plans earlier this month, but did not tell when the repatriation would begin. According to the minister, it does not matter whether a country has withdrawn the nationality of a Syrian citizen: they too are sent back.
According to Soylu, European countries are not doing enough to bring back IS fighters.
“Countries say IS fighters should be tried in the country where they are detained,” he said last weekend. “We cannot accept this.”
Several EU member states have stated on several occasions that they do not want to retrieve Syrians. “We are in close contact with Turkey,” says Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok in a response to the Turkish announcement. He points out that IS fighters have already returned in the past and that there are procedures.
Turkey wants more support from the European Union
The Turkish authorities believe that the EU countries do not sufficiently support Turkey. On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again criticized the European Union.
Turkey wants to create a so-called “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, so that two million Syrian refugees in Turkey can return to their home country. Turkey currently houses more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
“Whether we receive the support or not, we continue to provide assistance to the guests in our country. But if this does not work, we will open the doors to Europe,” Erdogan said Thursday.
He also threatened to do this last month, after Turkish troops invaded northeastern Syria.
Many countries reacted critically to Erdogan’s decision to fight in Syria with the Kurdish YPG, a militia that the Turks see as part of the PKK. Hundreds of people died in the fighting between the two parties.