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Turkish guards shoot dead refugees trying to cross border

Turkish border remains closed to Syrians seeking refuge from violence [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 March, 2016

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Turkish troops have opened fire on Syrian refugees trying to cross the border into Turkey, as Europe struggles with to cope with a new influx of refugees.
Turkish border guards opened fire on Syrian refugees from Lattakia and Idlib attempting to cross into Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

The guards killed at least 10 refugees and wounded 10 others in the attack on Friday, the Observatory claimed.

Ankara, insists that its border force has "outstanding track record" but Turkeu has admitted that its border guards have fired fired on Syrians trying to enter its soil illegally.

"In certain cases, the border patrol has no option but to fire warning shots because they often come under attack from smugglers and terrorist groups on the Syrian side," a senior government official told The Independent.

Turkey intensified its border security amid heavy pressure from the EU to stem the flow of refugees, who set off from Turkey's western coast towards Europe.

But recent attacks on Syrian refugees trying to cross into Turkey have widely circulated.

The Independent reported on Friday that families caught attempting to cross into Turkey faced open fire and heavy beatings at the hands of the Turkish border force. 

Rights organisations also addressed border abuses against Syrian refugees.

"The international community's failure to deal with the growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey has led to a crisis of unprecedented proportions with refugees facing push-backs and live fire at the border," Amnesty International said.

The situation was described as "abhorrent" by the group's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner.

The EU and Turkey are set to hold a summit on Monday to discuss the refugee crisis.

Thousands of refugees are stranded the on Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni [Getty]

European leaders are expected to use the summit to press Ankara to take back more "economic migrants" from Greece and reduce the flow of people across the Aegean Sea.

Greece has been plunged at the heart of Europe's greatest migration crisis in six decades after a series of border restrictions along the migrant trail - from Austria to Macedonia - has caused a bottleneck on its soil.

Over 30,000 refugees and migrants have been trapped in the country, around a third of them at Idomeni border crossing, where aid groups report food and tent shortages.

A state of emergency

A regional governor called on the Greek government Saturday to declare a state of emergency for the area surrounding the Idomeni border crossing, where thousands of migrants are stranded due to border restrictions along the route toward western Europe.

"It's a huge humanitarian crisis. I have asked the government to declare the area in a state of emergency," said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, governor of the Greek region of Central Macedonia.

"This cannot continue for much longer," he said during a visit to Idomeni to distribute aid to the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations.

"We are expecting Turkey to start finally doing what it should be doing for months now and we also expect our European partners to start receiving refugees in their countries," the governor added, "There needs to be a proportional distribution between the countries."

A new city for Syrian refugees

Meanwhile, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested building a new city in northern Syria to house some of the millions of refugees escaping the country's civil war.

Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul late Friday that the new city would be located near the Turkish border and said he had even discussed the idea with US President Barack Obama.

"I am going to tell you something. What is the formula? We found a city in the north of Syria," said Erdogan, quoted by the Anadulu news agency.

He said that the city would be 4,500 square kilometres in area and its infrastructure could be built in cooperation with the international community.

Refugees from Syria could be "resettled" there, he said.

More than 270,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's civil war began five years ago.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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