The safe and voluntary return of Syrians is among the top priorities for Turkey, which hosts more refugees than any other country, the nation’s deputy foreign minister said Monday.

Joining a committee meeting of the UNHCR refugee agency in Geneva via video link, Yavuz Selim Kiran said Turkey is extremely concerned about the living conditions of those displaced from their homeland.

It is impossible to overlook the suffering of 80 million forcibly displaced people, Kiran said, adding the novel coronavirus outbreak significantly added to the hardships of people displaced around the world.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Turkey did not play “three monkeys” but instead rushed to help 154 countries amid the virus’ spread, he said.

The closure of borders due to the virus and disruptions to the global supply system led to difficulties for those seeking to extend a helping hand to the displaced, he added.

On top of the challenges brought by the virus, some countries also push back migrants in the sea in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1951, said Kiran, who said immediate international action must be taken.

Turkey and human rights groups have document Greece turning back refugees in the Aegean Sea, violating international law and jeopardizing the refugees’ lives.

Welcoming the UN call to raise $745 million for refugees and countries in poor condition, Kiran said Turkey is pleased to see that some 62% of the funds were pledged already.

Kiran said he hoped countries bearing the heaviest brunt of the refugee crisis should be prioritized in this context.

He concluded by pointing out that Turkey hosts more Syrians than any country in the world – nearly 4 million – and stressed that the safe and voluntary return of Syrian refugees is among its top priorities.

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