Turkey response to Syria refugee crisis showing strains: Amnesty
ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
A Syrian Kurdish boy carries water on Oct. 22, 2014 to his family's tent in a refugee camp in Suruç, Şanlıurfa province. AFP PhotoTurkey's widely-admired response to the refugee crisis sparked by the war in neighboring Syria is now showing its limitations, with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees living in destitution and others being denied entry, Amnesty International warned Nov. 20.
Turkey has taken in 1.6 million Syrian refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 but only 220,000 of these are living in refugee camps -- which are now operating at full capacity -- and the rest are fending for themselves, Amnesty said.
"Turkey's response to the Syrian refugee crisis, despite its significant resource commitment and many positive policy initiatives, is increasingly showing its limitations," it said.
"A growing number of Syrian refugees in Turkey are struggling to survive," it said saying that hundreds of thousands were "likely to be destitute or at serious risk of destitution."
"Some are so desperate that they are considering returning to war-torn Syria," it said in the report, entitled "Struggling to Survive".
Amnesty praised the "well-resourced" refugee camps that had been set up in Turkey and the move by the Turkish authorities to allow free healthcare to all Syrian refugees.
It contrasted this with the paltry response by the international community to the crisis, complaining of "grossly insufficient funding commitments" from the West.
Since the conflict began, Turkey has had an open door policy for Syrian refugees, who Ankara prefers to call "guests" rather than "refugees" and their camps "tented cities" rather than "camps".
But Amnesty complained that some are are now being denied access to the safety of Turkish territory.
Those who try and cross illegally, avoiding official border crossings, are at risk of abuses including "being fired on with live ammunition, or torture and other ill-treatment."
Amnesty said it had gathered evidence of 17 fatal shootings and 10 incidents in which 31 individuals were allegedly beaten by Turkish border guards.
It said the 17 deaths were reported to have been caused by the use of live ammunition between December 2013 and August 2014. It said the authorities had not responded to requests for comment.
"Syrian refugees are being denied access to Turkey, pushed back or even killed or injured while attempting the crossing," Amnesty said, calling for an investigation of the abuses.
"It is clear that Turkey's current border policies are not working."