Turkey appears to have started to apply its repeated threats to “open the doors” to send 3.6 million refugees into Europe, as the Istanbul governor's office announced on Friday November 15th that more than 6,000 Syrian migrants in Istanbul had been sent to temporary housing centres in other provinces since early July, two weeks after a deadline for Syrians not registered in the city to leave.
Regarding migrants from other nationalities, the governor's office said it had sent 42,888 illegal migrants from different nationalities to provinces that have repatriation centres, adding that their deportation process is continuing in those centres.
Ankara is enforcing its threats to release those refugees into Europe, the same “illegal migrants” that Turkey used as a pretext to wage its offensive on Syrian soil to expand the so-called 'Safe Zone' to house those millions of refugees. Now it has control of this region and beyond, following the aggression, it appears to be fully determined to deport refugees out of Turkey to the other side of the border with Syria.
After talks with Turkish President Erdoğan on Wednesday November 13th, President Trump said that Europe should pay more to cover the costs related to Syrian refugees. "I think that frankly Europe should be paying for this to a large extent. As of this moment Turkey's been paying for most of it," he said at a joint White House news conference with Erdoğan.
Turkey currently hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians, the largest population ever displaced by an eight-year civil war. The number of Syrians in Istanbul, a city of some 15 million, has swelled to more than half a million according to Reuters.
Ankara has repeatedly urged the European Union to help Turkey in hosting over 3.5 million refugees. But following the EU’s criticism of Turkey’s incursion into Syria, Erdoğan renewed his threat to unleash the refugees and the former Isis detainees.
According to their latest report, Amnesty International (AI), spoke to refugees who said that Turkish police had beaten or threatened them into signing documents stating they wanted to return to Syria, when in reality Turkey was forcing them back to a war zone and putting their lives in grave danger.
“Turkey’s claim that refugees from Syria were choosing to walk straight back into the conflict is dangerous and dishonest. Rather, our research shows that people are being tricked or forced into returning,” said Anna Shea, Researcher on Refugee and Migrant Rights at AI.
“Turkey deserves recognition for hosting more than 3.6 million women, men, and children from Syria for over eight years, but it cannot use this generosity as an excuse to flout international and domestic law by deporting people to an active conflict zone,” Shea said.
The report stated that without official statistics, estimating the number of forced deportations was difficult. But based on dozens of interviews conducted between July and October 2019 for the report ‘Sent to a War Zone: Turkey’s Illegal Deportations of Syrian Refugees’, AI estimated that over the past few months, the figure was likely to be in the hundreds. The Turkish authorities claim that 315,000 people have left for Syria on an entirely voluntary basis.