Turkey denies accusations it is deporting back Syrian refugees
Turkey denied claims by Amnesty International suggesting it was forcibly returning Syrian refugees to their conflict-torn country, as Ankara prepares to accept migrants who travelled to Greece illegally as part of an EU deal.
"The allegations do not reflect reality in any way," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement. "It is sad that this kind of news was shared with the public [by the media] in such an intense way," it added.
International rights group, Amnesty International accused Turkey on Friday of illegally forcing thousands of Syrians back to their war-torn homeland in recent months, suggesting it exposed "fatal flaws" in an agreement with the European Union.
The revelations showed Turkey was not a "safe country" for Syrian refugees who had already travelled thousands of miles to Europe to escape from war in Syria, according to Amnesty.
But Turkey denies that Syrians were being sent back against their will, saying the country had maintained an "open door" policy for Syrian migrants for five years and strictly abided by the non-refoulement principle of not returning someone to a country where they were liable to face persecution.
"Turkey is committed to continue to provide protection to Syrians fleeing violence and instability under its international obligations," it added.
The EU-Turkey deal stipulates the return to Turkey of any Syrian refugee arriving on the Greek islands, to be offset by resettling a Turkey-based Syrian in the EU.
Advocacy groups are concerned that the deal, which aims to stem the flow of undocumented migrants and goes into effect on April 4, threatens the rights of asylum seekers, and they question whether Turkey is a safe country for them.
Greece is due on Monday to start sending back to Turkey all migrants, including Syrians, who crossed the Aegean Sea illegally.