Turkey denies Amnesty claims that it forcibly returns Syrians to war zone

Turkey denies Amnesty claims that it forcibly returns Syrians to war zone

Turkey denies Amnesty claims that it forcibly returns Syrians to war zone

Syrian people wait in front of the Oncupinar crossing gate to go back to Syria, near the town of Kilis, in south-central Turkey, on February 11, 2016 - AFP photo

Turkey has denied claims by Amnesty International that it is forcibly returning hundreds of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

A Turkish diplomatic source talking to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Turkey had pursued an “open door policy” regarding the Syrian migrants who fled their country due to the more than five-year-long civil war. 

Amnesty International claimed on March 31 that Turkey has forcibly returned hundreds of Syrian refugees to their homeland since mid-January. 

It said this practice exposed “fatal flaws” in the agreement between Turkey and the EU that was reached on March 18 to curb the flow of migrants to the EU, which is the greatest migrant crisis the bloc has experienced since World War II.

The organization said its research on the Turkish-Syrian border suggests that around 100 Syrians – who often have not registered in Turkey – are expelled from Turkey each day.

“Turkey has been implementing the ‘open door policy’ to the Syrians, who flee the war zone in their country, for around five years and studiously obeys the ‘non-refoulement’ principal at the border. There has been no change to this approach,” said the source. 

Turkey is currently hosting 2.7 million migrants, mostly from Syria. 

Advocacy groups are concerned that the deal, which aims to stem the flow of illegal migrants and goes into effect April 4, threatens the rights of asylum seekers, and they question whether Turkey is a safe country for them.

The EU-Turkey deal stipulates the return to Turkey of any refugee arriving on the Greek islands, to be offset by resettling a Turkey-based Syrian in the EU.

“Far from pressuring Turkey to improve the protection it offers Syrian refugees, the EU is in fact incentivizing the opposite,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

“Having witnessed the creation of Fortress Europe, we are now seeing the copycat construction of Fortress Turkey,” Dalhuisen added.