TURKEY has been accused of forcibly deporting hundreds of refugees back to Syria even though the fighting there is continuing.
Some 3.6 million refugees who fled Syria’s eight-year-long civil war currently live in Turkey but it hopes to resettle up to two million in the planned safe zone in northeast Syria.
Some of the 3.6 million Syrians living in camps in Turkey
Syrian children living in a refugee camp in Syria
Turkey and its local allies began a military operation across the border into neighbouring northern Syria after Donald Trump withdrew US forces in a bid to crush Kurdish YPG forces.
A plan agreed between Turkey and Russia this week envisages YPG fighters being removed from a 19 mile strip of territory along the Turkish border and refugees being allowed to return there “in a safe and voluntary manner”.
But Amnesty International has spoken to refugees who complained of being threatened or physically forced by Turkish police to sign documents stating that they were voluntarily returning to Syria.
“In reality, Turkey put the lives of Syrian refugees under serious danger by forcing them to return to a war zone,” the human rights group said.
Amnesty said it believed the number of forced returns in recent months to be in the hundreds, based on interviews it conducted between July and October.
Anna Shea, Amnesty’s Researcher on Refugee and Migrant Rights, said Turkey deserved recognition for hosting so many Syrians over many years.
“But it cannot use this generosity as an excuse to flout international and domestic law by deporting people to an active conflict zone,” she added.
Ankara says more than 350,000 Syrian refugees have already voluntarily returned to their country.
Addressing world leaders at the United Nations in September, President Erdogan set out proposals to build dozens of new villages and towns in the planned safe zone along the Turkish border.
Russia urged the Kurds to fully withdraw from the entire length of Syria's northeastern border as per the shock deal agreed between Moscow and Ankara – or be mauled by the Turkish army.
Syrian and Russian forces will deploy in the northeast of the country to remove Kurdish fighters and their weapons from the border.
It endorses the return of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to the border alongside Russian troops.
MOST READ IN WORLD NEWS
Haulage boss and wife, 38, arrested for manslaughter over 39 migrant deaths
'I'M DYING MUM'
Vietnamese 'lorry victim's' desperate texts to mum saying 'I can't breathe'
Children 'dropping like flies' as 30 fall ill to sickness bug at caravan park
HEIR WE ARE
Harry makes surprise appearance in support of Meghan amid royal tensions
DO OR DON'T
It's official - we WON'T leave on Oct 31 as EU agree on Brexit extension
DEAD IN JAIL
Phones4U exec dies in prison after killing transgender ‘mail-order’ bride
They will replace the Americans who had patrolled the region for years with their former Kurdish allies.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said that 300,000 people have been displaced by Turkey’s incursion and 120 civilians have so far been killed.
Turkey has been accused of banned white phosphorus bombs against Kurds, which it has denied.
What was the deal struck between Russia and Turkey over northeastern Syria?
Russian and Syrian security forces are to start overseeing the removal of Kurdish fighters and weapons at least 30km (19 miles) into Syria under the deal struck by presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey will maintain control over the areas it holds since its incursion of northeastern Syria on October 9 to drive the Kurdish militia from the border.
It also lets Russian and Syrian troops control the rest of the border.
Syrian border guards will be deployed from noon on October 23 – when Turkey's five-day cease-fire expired.
Six days later, Russian and Turkish forces will jointly start to patrol a narrower, 10km strip of land in the “safe zone” that Ankara has long sought in northeast Syria.
Kurdish fighters completed their pullout from areas Turkey invaded this month.
A Kremlin spokesman warned that if Kurdish forces don't fully retreat from the entire northeastern Syrian border, they will face the Turkish army.
Under the deal with Moscow, the length of border which the Kurds would be required to pull back from is more than triple the size of the territory covered by the US-Turkish accord.
In a victory for Turkey, this covers most of the area it had wanted to initially include in its 'safe zone'.
The agreement achieves Turkey's long-held goal of a border strip cleared of the US allies, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organisation because of their links to insurgents inside Turkey.
Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kobane
Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)