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)

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency criticized Turkey on Friday for

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.

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