Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Syrians denied entry into Turkey ahead of EU visit

  • Turkey's PM Davutoglu: 'There is not one single Syrian who has been sent back to Syria without his or her will.' (Photo: ©Council of Europe)

Turkey is blocking entry of Syrian refugees following a raid on camps last week by Islamic State jihadists in a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border, according to Human Rights Watch.

Ikdah, one of the besieged camps in the zone, is just south of the Turkish city of Gaziantep where three EU leaders are set to discuss EU-financed projects with Turkish authorities at the weekend.

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German chancellor Angela Merkel, along with European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans are scheduledo go there on Saturday (23 April).

Details of their trip remain vague.

Last weekend Merkel cancelled her plan to inaugurate, along with Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a settlement of container homes that now stands empty as a result of the militant raids.

Gaziantep is also close to Kilis - a province and a town of the same name, in south-central Turkey that shares the border with Syria - where IS has also launched attacks.

Rockets fired from the militants killed three children in Kilis, a Turkish border town that is itself home to an estimated 100,000 Syrian refugees.

Davutoglu denies Syrian push-backs

"Syrians arriving to provinces like Kilis are settling there and we have not seen any protests against refugees or Arabs or Syrians, so this is a humane stand," Turkey's Davutoglu told Europe's human rights assembly, the Council of Europe, on Tuesday (19 April).

Davutoglu refuted reports by aid organisations that Syrians were being pushed back into Syria by Turkish border police, some allegedly at gun point.

He noted that Turkey hosts some 2.7 million Syrian refugees on top of over 300,000 Iraqis and other nationalities.

"If there was test on humanity, globally, Turkey would be the only country to pass the test," he said.

Human Rights Watch says the Turks are sealing off a third of its 911km border with Syria by building a 3-metre high concrete wall. The wall runs next to Ikdah camp.

No EU money has gone to help finance Ikdah, said the NGO.

Turkey’s top envoy to the EU, Selim Yenel, told EUobserver in late March that some of the money from a €6 billion EU aid purse could fund projects in the safe zones along the border.

The deal, signed off by EU and Turkish leaders in Brussels last month, does not appear to rule out the possibility.

It noted the "EU and its member states will work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria".

The statement added that the EU would provide help "in certain areas near the Turkish border which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe".

€50 million for refugees in Turkey

The EU commission, for its part, on Tuesday released a further €50 million to finance projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey as part of an initial €3 billion package.

"These projects address the immediate needs of the Syrian refugees, bringing the commission's total support so far to the facility to €145 million," said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Pressure to alleviate the flows into and from Turkey has also been stymied, in part, by the refusal of most EU states to relocate would-be asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in mid-March announced EU states needed to relocate 6,000 every month.

But figures from the EU commission last week show only 208 had been relocated since his request, bringing total relocations to 1,145 out of a total 160,000 target.

"We are running a very serious risk if we fail to apply the laws that we have promulgated," said Juncker.

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