The Turkish government plans to relocate 700,000 Syrians in Turkey to the territories it aims to seize from the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The government has stepped up measures against refugee population in Turkey, after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced defeats in five of the country’s six most populous provinces in local polls on March 31. Experts said in addition to Turkey’s ailing economy, resentment among voters against some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees also played a role in the AKP’s election losses.
While the Ministry of Interior announced measures against irregular migration, the authorities in Istanbul set Aug. 20 as the deadline for Syrians to return to the provinces they were registered or face punitive measures and the police intensified controls to detect unregistered Syrians in Istanbul. Turkish law-enforcement authorities are also using a hotline to collect information from the population on the location of refugees illegally living in the city, the WSJ said.
The government last year announced plans to launch a military offensive in northern Syria to seize some enclaves controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey sees the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the SDF, as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the YPG forms the backbone of the U.S-led coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria.
After nearly eight months of negotiations with no concrete results, the United States and Turkey on Wednesday announced that they had agreed to establish a joint operation center in Turkey for a planned safe zone in northern Syria that would serve as a “peace corridor” for the safe return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland.
The government is working on a plan to relocate 700,000 Syrians to territories it hopes to seize from the YPG in northern Syria, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.
Refugees and advocacy groups say Turkish authorities in recent weeks have rounded up hundreds of Syrians and forcibly sent them back to their war-ravaged country, Politico reported on Friday.
Cases of Syrians being sent back against their will have been reported before, but the scale of the recent crackdown, which began in July, has no precedent, Politico said.