Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse Turkey of deporting Syrians before its military operation

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Ankara on Friday of forcibly deporting Syrians to their country in the months leading up to its military operation in northeast Syria.

In two separate statements, the two organizations accused Turkey of forcing Syrians to sign documents stating that they wanted to "voluntarily" return to Syria through "deception or coercion."

Amnesty said that Turkish police had misled Syrians by telling them that signing the document, written in Turkish and therefore not read by many, meant they wanted to remain in Turkey or to confirm that they had received a blanket.

"Returns are not yet safe and voluntary," said Anna Shea, an Amnesty International researcher on refugee and migrant rights. "Millions of other refugees from Syria are at risk (now)." It also called for an "end to the forcible return of persons".

The organization said it had documented "20 verified cases," but it was likely to be "in the hundreds in the past few months."

Human Rights Watch said it collected testimonies from 14 Syrians who confirmed that they had been deported between January and September to Idlib province.

On October 9, Turkey launched a military operation in northeastern Syria against the YPG, which it classifies as "terrorist". This is the third operation Ankara has launched in northern Syria since 2016.

Turkey says its goal of a "safe zone" will move to a portion of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it has hosted since the start of the conflict in 2011.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoانan had earlier stressed the voluntary nature of the returns.

In response to questions from France, Turkish diplomatic sources rejected accusations of deportation.

"The allegations of forced returns or misinformation are not true," the sources said. She added that "no one was forced to sign any document, this is not possible."

The sources said Turkey wants the refugees to return to Syria in a "voluntary, safe and dignified way."


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