When Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring into northeastern Syria on Oct. 9, one of the objectives cited was the creation of a safe zone to accommodate a good part of the nearly 3.7 million Syrian refugees the country hosts. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly asserted that the refugees have cost Ankara $40 billion and slammed Western countries for allegedly contributing next to nothing. Did Turkey really spend $40 billion on Syrian refugees? Are the Syrians living off of assistance or working under harsh conditions to earn a living?
The alleged $40 billion is not clearly identifiable in official records. Certain expenditures have been officially cited over the years, but the total is nowhere close to $40 billion. Even the Court of Accounts, the country’s top public auditor, has flagged ambiguities in spending and documentation.