ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Syrian children carry their belongings as they cross back into Syria with their families at the Turkish Cilvegozu border, opposite the Syrian commercial crossing point Bab al-Hawa, in Reyhanli, Hatay province, May 14, 2013. REUTERS Photo
Turkey has rebuffed a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that accused countries, including Turkey, of pushing back tens of thousands of people trying to flee the violence in Syria.
HRW claimed July 1 that Turkish, Iraqi and Jordanian border guards were pushing back tens of thousands of people trying to flee Syria.
“Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey have either closed numerous border crossings entirely or allowed only limited numbers of Syrians to cross, leaving tens of thousands stranded in dangerous conditions in Syria’s conflict-ridden border regions. Only Lebanon has an open border policy for Syrians fleeing the conflict,” the statement from the human rights body said.‘Open door policy’
However, the Turkish Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said it had implemented an “open door policy” from the first day of the crisis, a fact that was included in the reports of U.N. officers who regularly visit the camps. “As of July 1, Turkey is hosting 200,018 Syrians in refugee camps,” the statement said.
HRW also claimed that an airstrike on June 25, 2013, reportedly hit the Syrian Bab al-Salam camp for displaced Syrians near the Turkish border, “where thousands of people have been stuck since August 2012 because Turkey refuses them entry.”
However, the agency rejected the claim that Turkey had closed numerous border crossings entirely or allowed only limited numbers of Syrians to cross. “Sometimes there are Syrians accumulated at the border gates due to security procedures,” it said.
A Syrian activist who visited the camp on June 26 told HRW that the attacks injured seven people and residents. He reportedly said that the seven were allowed into Turkey for treatment but that the Turkish authorities had kept the nearby border crossing closed, despite protests from Syrians living in the Bab al-Salam camp.
“Syria’s neighbors should stop pushing desperate people back to places where their lives are in danger,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. AFAD also defended its aid efforts not only in Turkey but beyond the border. “Eight aid acceptance centers have been established near the border line,” the agency said. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of mid-June Turkey was hosting over 387,000 refugees.