ISTANBUL – Hundreds of Syrian refugees who have been rescued by Turkey’s coastguard fear deportation to Syria.
Turkey’s coastguard rescued 211 Syrians as they were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. Some 22 people drowned when the boat capsized a few miles from the Turkish coast, officials said on Sunday.
Survivors told the Guardian that some of the Syrian detainees had been flown to Lebanon.
“They are threatening us that Syrians will be deported to Syria, Iraqis to Iraq,” said one of the survivors.
“We are being deported at our cost – whoever doesn’t have the money to go to Beirut airport, they send him to Bab al-Hawa. I don’t know what to say. If they send us back to Syria we will die.”
A spokesman for the Turkish President Recep Teyyip Erdogan denied any refugee would be sent to Syria but survivors say those who cannot afford a flight to Lebanon are being forced to go to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria.
Dogan Eskinat told the Guardian: “All refugees are interviewed by [the UN refugee agency], who make sure that they will not be returned to Syria.”
“In general, we have a no-returns policy, so I don’t know where that claim comes from.”
According to the UNHCR, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the war-torn country since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, while some 6.5 million more are displaced within the country.
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