Amnesty International said in a new report Friday that Turkey has force “hundreds” of Syrian refugees back into the war zone, against international law.
The report said Turkey forcibly deported the refugees back into the country in advance of creating a “safe zone” along the Syrian-Turkish border. The organization said refugees claimed they were beaten and threatened to sign papers falsely stating that they wanted to return to Syria, despite the ongoing violence in the region.
Amnesty International said that while it could not come up with firm figures for how many Syrian refugees have been forced to return to conflict zones, they estimate “hundreds,” based on interviews with refugees on the ground.
“Turkey’s claim that refugees from Syria are choosing to walk straight back into the conflict is dangerous and dishonest,” Anna Shea, a researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
“Rather, our research shows that people are being tricked or forced into returning. 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 continued.
In the meantime, Turkey and Kurdish forces squared off in various clashes Friday as the Syrian government transported soldiers to northern Syria in an effort to reclaim land it had not controlled through most of its eight-year civil war.
Turkish forces had halted its military operations against the Kurds until Wednesday while giving Kurdish fighters time to leave a buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the United States to turn over Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Kurdish-led forces in Syria. The request comes after U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Abdi on social media and called for negotiations between the two sides.
“I really enjoyed my conversation with General @MazloumAbdi,” Trump said on Twitter Thursday. “He appreciates what we have done, and I appreciate what the Kurds have done. Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the oil region.”