Erdogan threatens to release 3.6 million refugees into Europe if it calls offensive an 'occupation'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday said that if Europe describes Turkey's current military operation against Kurdish forces in Syria as an "occupation," then he will release nearly 4 million refugees into the continent, CNN reports.


In a speech from Ankara, Erdoğan said, "I will say this once again. If you try to label our current operation as an occupation, our job becomes easier, we will open the doors and send the 3.6 million refugees to you."

The U.N. Security Council met Thursday to discuss a potential response to Turkey's invasion of Syria. 

Erdoğan and the Turkish government view Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), as hostile, while the SDF was a vital ally to the United States and others in its fight against ISIS.

The Turkish president wants the SDF gone from northern Syria so that he can resettle 2 million Syrian refugees — who are currently in Turkey — there.

Erdoğan's military offensive, named "Operation Peace Spring," was initiated Wednesday after President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE announced earlier in the week that remaining U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be removed.

According to the news outlet, since the campaign began Wednesday, the SDF has reported 11 casualties, while Erdoğan says that 109 "terrorists" have been killed. Of the 11 reported SDF deaths, eight have been civilians.

However, CNN reports that humanitarians believe that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed if Turkey continues its air and ground assaults.

"Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now in harm's way," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the news source. "Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target."
"As Turkish offensive in Syria begins, the IRC is deeply concerned about the lives and livelihoods of the two million civilians in northeast Syria who have already survived ISIS brutality and multiple displacements," the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.
Additionally, the UNCHR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, said that the Syrian refugees in Turkey must not be forced to leave the country.