Arrest of thousands of irregular migrants in Turkey, including Syrians | News -

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A campaign against illegal immigrants in Istanbul has led to the arrest of 6,000 people, including Syrians, in the past two weeks, the interior minister announced on Wednesday (July 24).

There have been concerns over the past few days about reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees have been returned to Syria after having been forced to sign documents in Turkish. Minister Suleiman Suwailo denied the reports.

"We are in operation since July 12. We have arrested 6122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans," the minister told NTV television. He pointed to the presence of Syrians among the detainees but without specifying the number. "When we arrest unregistered Syrians, we return them to refugee camps," he said, referring to a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay. He added that the Syrians were choosing to "voluntarily" return to areas where fighting had subsided.

Turkey receives the largest number of Syrians fleeing their country compared to other neighboring countries, estimated at 3.5 million people. Most of them have "temporary protection" cards but restrict their movement in the province where they are registered. The current campaign targets residents in Istanbul illegally.

Syrian non-governmental organizations said on Monday that more than 600,000 Syrians – most of them with temporary protection cards issued by other provinces – were arrested in Istanbul last week and expelled to Syria, and were not transferred to other provinces.

The campaign is being overseen by the Istanbul governor's office, run by the central government in Ankara.

The campaign comes after the defeat of the AKP party led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul municipal elections. Some said the large number of refugees in the city had damaged the popularity of the ruling party. The governor's office says 547,000 Syrians are registered in the city.

According to a study published by Istanbul's Kader Haas University this month, the percentage of Turks displeased with Syrian presence rose from 54.5 percent in 2017 to 67.7 percent in 2019.


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