ISTANBUL (Turkey): Turkey has arrested more than 6,000 illegal and unregistered refugees in a crackdown on illegal refugees.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has said that in the crackdown on illegal refugees including Syrians Turkish law enforcement agencies have arrested over six thousands people.
“We have been carrying out an operation since July 12 … We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans and around 1,000 Syrians,” Soylu told TV station NTV on Wednesday.
“When we catch Syrians who are not registered, we send them to refugee camps,” he said, citing a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay and denying the claims of deportation.
However, he said some Syrians were “voluntarily” choosing to go back to areas in Syria where fighting has abated.
Turkey is home to more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees – the highest number in the world.
Most have “temporary protection” permits but these restrict them to the province in which they first registered.
On July 18, the Interior Ministry’s Directorate of Migration Management said in a statement that it was illegal for refugees with protection permits to stay in provinces other than the one in which they were registered.
The statement said that violations of the rule will be penalised, which might include the revocation of permits.
The current crackdown is aimed at those who live in Istanbul without a permit to stay in the city.
International and national media reports earlier this week said that hundreds of refugees with protection permits issued in other provinces were detained in Istanbul last week and deported back to Syria, rather than to their assigned provinces.
The crackdown is orchestrated by the Istanbul governor’s office, which is controlled by the central government in Ankara.