Reuters interviews five Syrians deported from Turkey to Idlib

Reuters said on Thursday it had spoken to five Syrians who had been forcibly sent to northern Syria by Turkish authorities in the past week.

Syrians in Istanbul and refugee advocates have reported that some Syrian refugees were being sent to Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, currently under attack by Damascus.

The Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Wednesday that none of the 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection status would be deported, adding that those who were illegally in Turkey with no residence permits had been taken to refugee camps.

The Istanbul governor’s office on Monday set an Aug. 20 deadline for Syrian refugees to return to the Turkish province in which they registered on arrival or face forcible return to those regions.

But interviews by Ahval and the Voice of America in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district showed that the authorities had not waited for the end of one month deadline to send Syrians refugees back to provinces they are registered.

Ahval on Tuesday talked on the phone with 18-year-old Syrian Amjad Mohamad Adel Tablieh, who said he had been sent to Idlib after he was caught by the police in Istanbul with no identity card while visiting relatives.

According to Amjad, the police did not wait for his family to bring his temporary identity card and told him that he would be sent to the border province of Hatay, but found himself in Idlib instead.

Syrian real estate worker Abu Ahmad told Reuters a similar story on condition that he not be identified by his full name. The 31-year-old was stopped by the police as he set off to meet a client in Turkey’s bustling commercial hub where some estimates say up to one million Syrians live.  The number of registered Syrians is around 550,000, according to official figures.

Abu Ahmad’s registration card was issued at the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. In previous encounters with authorities showing an expired travel permitto the police allowed him to move around inside Turkey and escape with a reprimand, but this time he was piled into a bus with dozens of other men in Esenyurt.

Ten days later, he told Reuters, he found himself at the Bab al-Hawa crossing into Idlib, Reuters said.

Four others who spoke to Reuters in northern Syria also said they had been forcibly sent there in the past week, according to the news wire. All had thought in the beginning they were being transferred within Turkey to the provinces they were registered in.

“Our biggest fear was only him being sent back to Şanlıurfa,” Abu Ahmad’s brother told Reuters. “We didn’t even consider him being deported to Syria.”

Abu Ahmad said he had been forced by the police to sign a document in Turkish and Arabic that had said he had been voluntarily returning to Syria.

Abu Ahmad, whose wife is nine months pregnant, wants to return to Turkey, but has no valid documentation.

“What makes you angry is, if you’d committed a crime, okay,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “But no one has committed a crime.”

Meanwhile, an employee at the Syrian Bab al-Hawa crossing told Reuters that he recorded at least 4,500 Syrian returns this month, but could not say how many were voluntary trips or forced deportations.