Majority of refugees forced to return to Turkey's Syria safe zone - report

Turkey has been forcibly deporting Syrian refugees in the aftermath of its latest military incursion into northern Syria to create a safe zone in the region, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Turkey launched a military offensive on Oct. 9 against Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria. Turkish military and the Turkey-backed Syrian militias seized control of a 32 km deep region between northeastern Syrian towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliates withdrew from the area following two consecutive deals brokered by the United States and Russia.

Turkish authorities said hundreds of thousands of Syrians had already chosen to leave Turkey to move into what Turkey calls safe zone between the towns of Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad.

"But human rights monitors believe that those moving back of their own accord are in the minority – and that the so-called safe zone carved out by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s October invasion of the border strip is anything but," the Guardian said.

Erdoğan has repeatedly said that he had planned to resettle at least a million of some 3.6 million Syrians residing in Turkey to the area. The Turkish president has been criticised for attempting demographic engineering as the refugees to be resettled are Arab Sunni Muslims from Aleppo and Idlib in northwestern Syria, whereas the local population in the northeast part of the country includes Arabs, Kurds, and Christians.

Earlier reports said that the majority of the Syrian refugees whom Turkey has resettled in northeast Syria are families of Turkish-backed Syrian militias.

"The proposed influx of newcomers into the relatively small 2,000-sq-mile area now under Turkish control has been met with allegations of demographic engineering and ethic cleansing from rights groups and local Kurds, who say Turkey’s Syrian proxy fighters have forced Kurdish families from their homes and accuse them of looting, burning and confiscating farmland and businesses," the Guardian said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/18/syrian-refugees-return-to-home-towns-in-safe-zone-despite-dangers