Turkey rounds up Syrian refugees in Istanbul
A crackdown on unregistered immigrants in Istanbul has led to more than 6,000 arrests in a fortnight, according to Turkey’s interior minister.
Hundreds of Syrian migrants, who were reportedly forced to sign consent forms in Turkish that they could not read, have allegedly been sent home.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Syrians were choosing to return “voluntarily” to areas where fighting had reduced.
“We have been carrying out an operation since July 12… We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans,” Soylu told NTV.
“When we catch Syrians who are not registered, we send them to refugee camps,” he added.
Turkey has more than 3.5 million Syrian migrants, the world’s highest number.
Most hold “temporary protection” which restricts them to the province where they registered and the authorities say many Syrians are not registered to live in Istanbul.
Two clashes in the city earlier this year saw mobs attack Syrian properties. The arrests were ordered by the Istanbul governor’s office, which is controlled by the Ankara, not the new opposition mayor of Istanbul.
The country’s largest city has the biggest Syrian population of any Turkish region.
It was argued that the presence of Syrians in Istanbul hurt the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the mayoral campaign.
The governor’s office said there were 547,000 Syrians registered in the sprawling city.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said a new US proposal concerning the creation of a so-called safe zone in northern Syria was unsatisfactory, sugqgesting Turkey may launch an offensive in Syria if a deal is not found.
This week US and Turkish delegations discussed the creation of a safe zone along the Turkish border.
The minister said there was no agreement on the size of any zone or how it would be protected.
Turkey says the Kurdish fighters who have fought with the US against so-called Islamic State are terrorists. Ankara wants a safe zone established to keep Kurdish militants away from its border.
Cavusoglu suggested this week that Ankara would cancel a migrant readmission deal with the European Union should Brussels fail to provide visa-free travel for Turks.
Natasha Bertaud, a European Commission spokeswoman, said the two sides were still committed to implementing the “joint statement,” adding that the enforcement of the Turkish deal remained a condition for visa liberalisation.
Syria. Picture credit: Wikimedia