Turkey 'forcibly deporting' Syrian refugees to planned 'safe zone'

Turkey 'forcibly deporting' Syrian refugees to planned 'safe zone'
2 min read
25 October, 2019
A newly-released report by Amnesty International has documented the testimonies of Syrian refugees who say Turkish authorities are forcibly returning them to the war-torn country.
Turkey is reportedly using deception and intimidation to deport Syrians [Getty]
Turkey is "forcibly" deporting Syrian refugees to the Syria-Turkey border region designated for Ankara's planned "safe zone" despite ongoing conflict in the area, Amnesty International said in a report on Friday.

Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey, where rights groups say anti-refugee sentiment has grown among the public during the course of Syria's eight-year civil war.

Amnesty says it obtained the testimonies of refugees who complained of being intimidated or physically forced by Turkish authorities to sign documents agreeing to a voluntary return.
 
Turkey, meanwhile, says more than 350,000 Syrian refugees have voluntarilty agreed to return.

"In reality, Turkey put the lives of Syrian refugees under serious danger by forcing them to return to a war zone," Amnesty said in the report.

According to the rights group, hundreds of Syrian refugees have been forcibly returned in recent months, however only 20 cases have been verified.

Read more: Turkey, the Kurds and the demographic re-engineering of Syria

Ankara has yet to respond to the claims, however it has previously denied deporting Syrians against their will.

Those interviewed by Amnesty said they were deported after being told that they were not registered to live in the Turkish province they had been staying in. Some of the refugees reported being harrassed despite being registered in the locality where they were living.

'Safe zone'

Earlier this week, Turkey and Russia agreed a plan which would see Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters removed from a 30km strip of territory along the Turkish border in order to allow Syrian refugees to return to the "safe zone".

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set out an ambitious proposal at the United Nations to build new villages to house the former refugees in the safe zone.

Read more: Hundreds of Syrian refugees enter northern Iraq after Turkey offensive

Turkey and its Syrian proxies launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas on 9 October after US troops pulled back from the border and started withdrawing from the northeast altogether.

Dozens of civilians - mostly on the Kurdish side - have been killed since the start of the offensive, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to halt despite mounting international pressure.

The Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria has displaced more than 300,000 people, the Syrian Observatrory for Human Rights said last week.

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