Help knows no borders. There are many people who are willing to take in survivors of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. Medical support in the stricken areas is desperately needed. But this will require support at political level.
In the wake of the tragic news and distressing images of the devastating earthquake of 6 February, the cries for help of Syrian and Turkish men, women and children require all our commitment to save lives, alleviate suffering and support rapid, unbureaucratic solutions.
It is still too early to assess the full scale of the devastation. The death toll tragically continues to rise by the day. The situation is desperate and in north-west Syria, affects an area that had been largely reduced to rubble even before the earthquake. The region is home to millions of Syrians fleeing the civil war, whose lives have just been made even harder by the earthquake.
Numerous organisations, citizens and even political decision-makers in Germany, at state and federal level, are begging to be allowed to save as many human lives as possible and offer temporary shelter somewhere safe.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock appealed today for the Turkish-controlled crossing point on the border between Turkey and northern Syria to be used to channel humanitarian aid into areas of north-west Syria in the greatest need. The fact that the convoys have to travel through the scenes of devastation in southern Turkey makes matters even harder. For this reason, Turkey must open up all crossing point into Syria to help the humanitarian supplies to get where they are needed.
But this must obviously not be at the expense of Turkey, where there is also enormous suffering and a shortage of capacity to treat the wounded. Measures to get supplies quickly to Turkish and Syrian citizens, for instance using hospital ships and mobile clinics or evacuating the injured to neighbouring third countries, are now urgently needed. Temporary emigration of the injured and most in need of help and onward transport – possibly by means of an air bridge from southern Turkey – into states that are prepared to take them in should be the outcome of a joint humanitarian initiative of Turkey and the international community.
The number of people to be taken from uninhabitable cities and regions in the stricken areas will depend on the willingness of the international community to take them in – and on skilful diplomacy.
A very useful offer of help would consist of ensuring that survivors could be housed, immediately and on a temporary basis, by relatives, including those living outside of Turkey. It is simply not practical to apply current visa requirements, which require many months of processing time even under normal circumstances, to people who have lost their passports along with their homes! In Germany, there are many Turkish and Syrian families who are prepared to stand guarantor for their families. They hope that the visa barriers will come down and that the German Interior Ministry will act to create rapid, unbureaucratic solutions for their family members in Syria and Turkey.
We therefore call for:
- Cross-border aid to be provided as quickly as possible on a large scale – independently of a vote of the UN Security Council
- Medical care for Turkish, Syrian and Kurdish survivors to be stepped up in the afflicted region
- Temporary admission on humanitarian grounds to be available to both Turkish and Syrian nationals
This article was first published in German on boell.de