The Plight of Turkey’s Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee center on the Turkish border

Syrian refugee center on the Turkish border

There are now some 300,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, 190,000 of whom are in Turkish refugee camps.  In a recent briefing, Amnesty International recognizes the considerable effort that Turkish authorities have made to accommodate the increasing number of Syrian refugees, and calls upon the international community to step up its support to ease the burden this crisis places on Turkey and other nations bordering Syria.

Moreover, Amnesty notes that there is more that Turkey must do:

The situation for many Syrian refugees outside the refugee camps is dire and that provision for their basic needs and access to services is inadequate. Amnesty International is also concerned that Turkey’s border is only open to Syrians with passports or serious medical needs, denying many Syrians the opportunity to seek safety in Turkey and leaving them stranded in dire conditions in makeshift camps for internally displaced persons close to the Turkish border. There are also growing reports of forcible returns of refugees to Syria in violation of international law and Turkey’s own laws.

Reports of the forcible return of refugees are particularly disturbing.  For example, according to eyewitness reports, “between 500 – 600 refugees were forcibly returned to Syria… between 27 and 28 March 2013.”  In the report, Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to ensure that no forcible returns of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers take place… and to send a clear and unambiguous message to the local authorities that such forced returns will not be tolerated.  The Turkish authorities should launch a prompt, effective and impartial investigation into the allegations of forced returns.

As a press release from Amnesty notes, “despite Turkey’s stated ‘open door policy’, many refugees attempting to cross into the country have been stopped, leaving people stranded inside Syria in terrible conditions.”

Yet, Turkey and other countries bordering Syria cannot address the over 1.3 million refugees without international support.  “The responsibility to protect and assist refugees from Syria needs to be shouldered by both the international community and neighbouring countries,” said Charlotte Phillips, refugee researcher at Amnesty International. “In the face of this mounting crisis, the international community must act now to provide badly needed financial and technical assistance in order to support the efforts made by Syria’s neighbouring countries.”

William Jones
Chair, Turkey Country Coordination Group
Amnesty International – USA


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