Syrian refugees in Turkey ‘detained’ and ‘forced’ to return to conflict zones

More than 400,000 people have already died because of the war in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 July 2019

Syrian refugees in Turkey ‘detained’ and ‘forced’ to return to conflict zones

  • According to the report, Syrians are being coerced into signing forms saying they want to return to Syria
  • Over 3.6 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey – half a million of them in Istanbul

DUBAI: Syrians are being “detained” and “coerced” to go back to their war-torn country by Turkish authorities, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch on Saturday.

“Turkey claims it helps Syrians voluntarily return to their country, but threatening to lock them up until they agree to return, forcing them to sign forms, and dumping them in a war zone is neither voluntary nor legal,” Gerry Simpson, associate Emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said.

According to the report, Syrians are being coerced into signing forms saying they want to return to Syria, and then detained before they are sent back to conflict zones including Idlib and Aleppo, where more than 400,000 people already died in the armed conflict.

Although the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu denied such claims, several Syrians testified to have experienced maltreatment from Turkish authorities, drawing criticisms from rights groups.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees called on states not to “forcibly return Syrian nationals and former habitual residents of Syria,” and argues that asylum seekers “need international refugee protection.”

Over 3.6 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey – half a million of them in Istanbul. Recently, Turkey has intensified its crackdown on “unregistered” refugees, increasing police spot-checks of Syrians’ registration documents.

“Turkey should protect the basic rights of all Syrians, regardless of registration status, and register those denied registration since late 2017,” HRW’s report said, citing an international law that prohibits the return of anyone to “a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life.”


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 9 min 20 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.