ISTANBUL - Turkey has all but closed its borders to Syrian refugees, according to a report by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. The group accuses Ankara of pushing refugees into the arms of smugglers as Russia intensifies its bombing campaign in Syria.
Human Rights Watch says Turkey has ended its open door policy of admitting Syrian refugees, and during the past few months has intensified its monitoring of unofficial crossing points for refugees.
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Ankara's actions are imperiling refugees, says Emma Sinclair-Webb, Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Turkey.
"The border is for all intense purposes closed and they [refugees] have to rely on pretty dangerous smugglers' routes to get into Turkey. And obviously that works very much against the sick, the elderly, children and people who are in real need," said Sinclair-Webb.
When contacted, Turkey's Foreign Ministry was unable to give a response.
Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country, with more than 2 million Syrians and Iraqis given refuge. HRW's Sinclair-Webb says Turkey must keep its doors open with Russian planes intensifying operations in Syria.
"Over 100,000 is being mentioned as a figure of people who may be fleeing Russian airstrikes. And Turkey has an obligation under international law to keep its borders open to refugees, while also screening them for security reasons," she said.
The HRW report says the international community, especially the European Union, must do its part in helping ease Turkey’s burden.
Ankara says it has spent more than $6 billion hosting refugees and is demanding the European Union do its part in dealing with the crisis. Turkish EU summit on refugees is to be held in the coming days, but observers warn the parties remain deeply divided on key issues.