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Refugees: Turkish Officials Becoming More Violent

Volunteers help migrants and refugees on a dingy as they arrive at the shore of the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, March 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Volunteers help migrants and refugees on a dingy as they arrive at the shore of the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, March 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Refugees: Turkish Officials Becoming More Violent
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Refugees from the Middle East who have recently entered Greece say Turkish police and coast guard members are dealing with them more forcefully.

They say Turkish officials are trying to stop people from crossing the Aegean Sea.

The refugees say the Turkish authorities have attacked them on beaches to try to stop them from entering smugglers’ boats or as they travel by sea.

Some Syrian refugees also have accused Turkey of returning them to Syria. In December, refugees said several hundred of them were held at a detention center two hours from Istanbul. They said they were then brought to the border on buses and forced to cross back into Syria.

On Friday, European Union and Turkish leaders agreed to return refugees from the Middle East and migrants from Africa to Turkey after they land in Greece. In exchange, the EU will give Turkey an additional $3.4 billion to help the country pay for dealing with the crisis.

The EU also agreed to let as many as 72,000 of the estimated 2.7 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey move to EU countries.

Rights groups have condemned the deal. They say it violates both EU human rights legislation and international laws.

After the agreement was announced, the rights group Amnesty International released a statement. It said, “Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on it as being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral.”

An increase in violence by members of the Turkish coast guard or police will likely mean rights groups will ask European courts to cancel the deal. Some rights groups have already threatened to do so.

Last month, Amnesty International released a report that said Turkish security forces had shot and wounded civilians. The report said those injured included children, who were trying to flee Syria by entering Turkey.

The rights group said Turkey had left thousands of civilians trapped in northern Syria. The civilians had fled their homes during attacks by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Those forces were being supported by Russia.

Amnesty International said “Turkey’s highly selective practice is appalling -- only severely-injured people are allowed entry to seek medical treatment.”

Turkey has said that it is open to Syrian refugees fleeing conflict. But its border with Syria has been closed to civilians for more than a year. If anyone wants to enter, they must pay criminals who will smuggle them in. There have been many reports of Turkish border guards shooting at civilians trying to cross into Turkey.

In May 2015, VOA reported on claims by Syrian civilians that they had been shot at by Turkish guards near the town of Kilis. The guards were reportedly trying to stop the refugees from entering a tunnel that goes under the border fence.

Human Rights Watch has also accused Turkey of pushing back Syrians as they try to enter the country. In November, the rights group released a report on the situation. It said “Syrians described Turkish border guards (stopping) them at or near the border, in some cases beating them, and pushing them and dozens of others back into Syria or detaining and then summarily expelling them along with hundreds of others.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Correspondent Jamie Dettmer reported this story from Athens. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story into VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

predicate on – v. to be a precondition for; to be used as the basis for

appalling – adj. to horrify; to cause extreme concern

tunnel – n. an underground passage; a passageway that is dug through the earth

summarily – adv. without observing usual practices or rules