Setting up refugee “safe zones” on the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border and refusing to allow those fleeing the conflict to seek international protection could be a violation of international law and put vulnerable people at risk, human rights groups and aid workers have warned.
While Turkey long maintained an open-border policy with Syria, the country has recently adopted a restrictive stance, militarising the border and allowing only authorised traders, aid organisations, and those with life-threatening injuries to cross, leaving Syrians stranded in a conflict zone.
The UN puts the current number of displaced people trapped in the region around Azaz, a city four miles from the Turkish border, at around 250,000, more than half of whom live in nine refugee camps. The camps have been raided for provisions by armed groups and at times been less than two miles from Isis positions.
EU member states could also become complicit, the rights groups and aid workers said, if the number of such camps grows. Under the highly controversial EU-Turkey migration deal, EU member states offered to “work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria, in particular in certain areas near the Turkish border which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe”.