Turkish authorities deported 20 Syrian refugees to the city of Ras Al-Ain in northern Syria on Aug. 22, forcing them to sign with their fingerprints documents stating that they asked to return, after confiscating their money, luggage and cell phones, according to a report published Tuesday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The refugees were deported to the “Peace Spring” area, a zone on the Turkish Syrian border under the control of Turkish-backed fighters since the cross-border Operation Peace Spring against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2019.
According to SOHR, one of the deported individuals managed to reach an area controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northern Al-Hasakah countryside. He confirmed that their money, luggage and mobile phones were taken by Turkish authorities.
After being deported, the refugees were left outside a school in Ras Al-Ain. They were denied entry to the school, which was already overcrowded, by pro-Turkish Syrian fighters in the area. The individual who reached SDF-controlled area managed to contact his family while in Ras Al-Ain and arrange for a smuggler to transport him out of the town for $2,000, SOHR said.
The Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands and torn families apart. More than 585,000 people have died in the conflict, and 6.6 million have become refugees in neighboring countries and Europe, with the entire country deeply traumatized by the cruelty of the war.
The situation in the country has been exacerbated by major earthquakes that hit neighboring Turkey on Feb. 6, killing more than 50,000 people.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who won re-election in May, has pledged to repatriate 1 million Syrians.
Discontent over Turkey’s refugee population, particularly Syrians, emerged as a significant issue during the May elections. The opposition candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, promised to return all refugees to their countries of origin.
Refugees in Turkey are frequently targeted by Turkish politicians, who hold them responsible for the social and economic problems in the country. The anti-Syrian rhetoric has gained momentum, especially during the May 14 elections and the May 28 presidential runoff.
According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees.