Refugees walk along the side of the road in Turkey | Photo: Imago/Depo Photos/O.Sagsoz
Refugees walk along the side of the road in Turkey | Photo: Imago/Depo Photos/O.Sagsoz

A crackdown on unregistered migrants in Istanbul has seen 6,000 arrests in the past two weeks, the Turkish interior minister said Wednesday.

"We have been carrying out an operation since July 12... We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told the TV station NTV on Wednesday.

He said Syrians were part of the group, without giving numbers.

On Monday, the Turkish Interior Ministry had given unregistered Syrian nationals living in Istanbul illegally a four-week deadline to return tot he provinces in which they were registered. If they fail to relocate voluntarily, they face forced removal to those regions.

Moreover, there has been a mounting concern in recent days over reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees have been sent back to Syria, after being forced to sign consent forms in Turkish that they do not understand. The interior minister denied the claims.

Soylu said that if unregistered Syrians are caught, they are sent to refugee camps. He cited a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay.

However, he said some Syrians were choosing to go back to their home country "voluntarily" to areas where fighting has abated.

A coalition of Syrian NGOs said Monday that more than 600 Syrians -- mostly with protection permits issued in other provinces -- were arrested in Istanbul last week and deported back to Syria, rather than to their assigned provinces.

Turkey has 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 were registered. The current crackdown is aimed at those who live in Istanbul without a permit to stay in the city. It is orchestrated by the Istanbul governor's office, which is controlled by the central government in Ankara.

With material from AFP


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