UN slams Turkey over return of Syrian refugees
Geneva, March 29, 2013
The UN refugee agency criticised 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 neighbouring states.
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.
The refugees returned to areas of northern Syria held by rebels fighting President Bashar al-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 neighbouring 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.-Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Libya orders military force to 'liberate' ports
- Big bananas: Chiquita, Fyffes merge
- Radar sweeps, dozens of aircraft, but no sign of plane
- N Korea tanker loads oil at Libya rebel port
- Gold drops as US growth optimism weighs
- Merkel raps Putin; Russia tightens grip on Crimea
- World 'at sea' over missing Malaysian jetliner
- Passports requiring probe were on Malaysia flight
- 40 killed in Yemen as Houthi fighters near capital
- Vietnam finds object in sea; search on
- $5bn poll spend to boost India economy
- Libya authorises use of force against Korean tanker
- Ukraine PM says he will go to US to discuss crisis
- Syrian journalist killed covering fighting
- Malaysian jet may have turned back before vanishing
- No sign of missing plane; Malaysia probes false passports
- Two Europeans not on board 'missing' Malaysian jet
- China draws red line on North Korea
- Saudi sentences three to death for 2003 bombing
- First bitcoin machine opens in UK
- US sanctions will boomerang, warns Russia
- China plans $50bn bank to fund projects
- Sony to sell Tokyo 'birthplace'
- Obama orders sanctions over Russian moves
- Crimea parliament votes to join Russia
- Arab League to be revamped
- 'Upskirting' is legal: Massachusetts court
- Singapore probes 'unnatural' death of bitcoin trader
- Onus on world powers for Syria war crimes: UN
- US, Russia set for talks on Ukraine crisis