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Turkish border guards shoot at fleeing Syrians, say observers

Internally displaced families arrive at a makeshift camp near the Syrian-Turkish border, as hundreds of families flee the fighting in and around Idlib. EPA/ZEIN ALRIFAII

TURKISH guards at the border with Syria are indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning asylum seekers attempting to cross into Turkey, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

The spokesman for Turkey’s president said it was highly unlikely that Turkish soldiers would shoot at Syrian war refugees but the government would look into the report. Turkey has taken in 3.5 million Syrian war refugees since 2011.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Syrians were now fleeing heightened violence in the northwestern province of Idlib to seek refuge near Turkey’s border, which remains closed to all but critical medical cases.

Syrian armed forces have thrust deeper into the mainly rebel-held province in recent months and Turkey last month launched military action in the nearby Afrin region targeting Kurdish YPG militia fighters.

“Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Asked about the HRW statement, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said Turkish soldiers were there to protect these people and that Ankara has had an “open-door policy” since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.



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