UN rebukes Turkey over return of Syrian refugees

Witnesses say hundreds of Syrians bussed to border after clashes between refugees, Turkish military police at Suleymansah camp.

March 29, 2013 12:22
2 minute read.
Syrian refugees in Turkey

Syrian refugees in Turkey 370. (photo credit: reuters)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency criticized Turkey on Friday for sending home at least 130 Syrians without its scrutiny and urged it to investigate the riot which sparked the departures that some witnesses said were forced.

Turkey denied on Thursday it had rounded up and deported hundreds of Syrian refugees following unrest at the Suleymansah border camp, highlighting the strain the exodus from Syria's civil war is placing on neighboring states.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

The Geneva-based United Nations agency reiterated the principle that forced returns violate international law and said they could not be used as a "punishment or deterrent".

"UNHCR was not invited by authorities during the return process to monitor the procedures. Persons under international protection who have violated the law of the host country are subject to the relevant national laws and judicial procedures," Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in remarks emailed to Reuters overnight.

"Return to the country of origin, even voluntarily, is also subject to standards and procedures where individuals may be placed at risk on return," she said.

Click for full JPost coverage

The refugees returned to areas of northern Syria held by rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. UNHCR has no direct access to the area and does not know what happened to them.

Two Syrian refugees still in the camp and a camp official have said the refugees were forcibly deported. Turkish media reports said the protest began after a boy died in a tent fire blamed on an electrical fault.

Witnesses said hundreds of Syrians were bussed to the border after clashes on Wednesday in which refugees in the Suleymansah camp, near the Turkish town of Akcakale, threw rocks at military police, who fired teargas and water cannon.

"UNHCR would encourage authorities to assess any underlying issues which may have led to the incident which erupted in the Akcakale camp on 27 March, and where necessary to consider launching a review or as needed an investigation," Fleming said.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said 130 people, identified on camera as being "involved in the provocations", returned to Syria voluntarily, either because they did not want to face prosecution or because of repercussions from other refugees.

"Reports that this group was expelled across the border are incorrect," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

"As required by the temporary protection status and within the framework of the 'open door' and 'non-refoulement' principle, our country does not turn back Syrians wanting to come to Turkey or forcibly evict those in our country," it said.

More than 1.2 million Syrians fleeing violence and persecution have registered as refugees or await processing in neighboring countries and North Africa, the UNHCR says. They include 261,635 in Turkey, mostly staying in 17 camps.

The UNHCR noted "the high standard of assistance and protection extended to Syrians hosted in Turkey" and commended its government and people "for their ongoing generosity and sheltering of those in need", Fleming said.

Related Content

August 14, 2018
Report: Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces meet with Syrian government