Fears Erdogan will ‘misuse’ funds sent to Turkey by UK

Earthquake death toll in Turkey and Syria rises to over 4000

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Fears are rising that international aid and funds to help Turkey recover from three earthquakes could end up in the pockets of “swindlers”. The regime of President Tayyip Erdogan has come under closer scrutiny after parts of EU funds were misused to abuse Afghan and Syrian nationals, according to Human Rights Watch. Under a £5.3billion agreement with the EU, Turkey promised to stop migration at the height of the migration crisis in 2015 and accept the return of all asylum seekers who travelled through the country. Instead, some of the funds were allegedly misused and misappropriated by “swindlers”, says an expert on Turkish domestic and foreign politics.

Because of that precedent, Sinan Ciddi says there are legitimate concerns international aid could be misused again.

He told Express.co.uk: “Based on its prior receipt of aid with its agreement with the European Union, a significant amount of euros were transferred. There were serious allegations of misappropriation and misuse of external funds.

“There are fears within aid organisations but also among individual citizens who want to contribute to the relief effort that their money could end up in the wrong hands.”

Another fear, he said, is “swindlers” who act as humanitarian organisations “masquerading a sort of relief effort.”

While Edorgan’s government is a matter of concern, Mr Ciddi said his main concern was “scams” and how international funds could end in the hands of “crooks”. 

He said: “I have seen a couple of scenes on the ground where there were looters getting into these relief structures and trying to pick out what they wanted. I’m not sure how widespread that is.

“But in the absence of state authorities in some places, that’s bound to happen.”

However, he insists it is too early to tell whether those funds are being misused by Erdogan’s regime.

“I think there is way too much international attention at the moment for any credible misuse,” he said, adding the Turkish government is focused on dispatching as much help as possible to the most heavily affected regions.

Mr Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces, affecting 13 million of the country’s 85 million people. According to the authorities, more than 8,000 people have been rescued from the rubble in Turkey, and 380,000 have sought refuge in government shelters or hotels.

The state of emergency is purely a political decision ahead of the Turkish general elections that could help propel him in early May, Mr Ciddi said.

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He explained: “My sense is that Erdogan is uniquely focused on the political fallout from this. The state of emergency has been declared until one week out of the election in the affected areas. 

“That state of emergency can be used for all sorts of things, including censoring media and social media. There are already reports of individuals who are spreading ‘negative messaging’.

“There are essentially interested in controlling the narrative on this. Government ministers go on TV and say: ‘Our party, the Justice and Development Party, provides and does essentially what is necessary’.

“My sense is that he will use all resources at hand to essentially try and get the best image for himself to win the election.”

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