Syrian refugees turning Turkey into ‘circus,’ says Turkish journalist

Syrian refugees in Turkey enter and left the country as they please, effectively turning the country into a circus, Turkish journalist İsmail Saymaz said in a television programme .

Turkish media reported that some 83,000 Syrians went to their homelands in June last year during Eid al-Fitr. The number of refugees who went to Syria for Eid al-Adha was around 46,000. Turkey is home to 3.6 million registered Syrians staying in the country under temporary protection.

Opposition Sözcü newspaper reported that Saymaz during a TV programme on Friday said that this practice violated the rules set under temporary protection status. He said the regulation says in its preamble that said status can only granted to people who could not live in their own countries, who could not return to their homeland.

“Some of our Syrians go for holidays,” said Saymaz, who is known for his opposition to the Turkish government, but works for pro-government Hürriyet newspaper. He is a popular journalist with 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

“Some may say that it is a protected area, an area where they meet relatives,” the journalist said. “It makes no difference.”

Saymaz said Germany also hosted Syrian refugees, but none of them could travel to Syria as they would not be allowed to re-enter Germany.

“Turkey has turned into a three-ring circus. Those who go (to Syria), come back,” Saymaz said.

Turkish authorities over the last month have imposed a crackdown on Syrian refugees. The Istanbul governor’s office on Monday set an Aug. 20 deadline for Syrian refugees to return to the Turkish provinces in which they were registered on arrival or face forcible return to those regions.

But Syrians in Istanbul and refugee advocates have reported that Syrian refugees were  not only sent to the provinces they were registered. Some also have been deported to Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, currently under attack by Damascus which wants to remove jihadi fighters.

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday accused Turkey of detaining and coercing Syrians into signing “voluntary return” forms and then forcibly returning them to northern Syria, an area that is currently a war zone.

The United Nations said on Friday that air strikes by the Syrian government and its allies had killed at least 103 civilians in the past 10 days, including 26 children.