Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Syrian refugees in Turkey are being sent to the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Turkey is planning to implement the plan of returning Syrian refugees to Syria as the establishment of the so-called “safe-zone” between the areas of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn has come to fruition.
According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey aims to send around one million Syrian refugees to the “safe-zone” in northern Syria. Nevertheless, observers have commented that most of the Syrian refugees who have displaced to and settled in Turkey throughout the civil conflict are not actually from that region.
This has led to criticisms of the plan, which many see as simply a strategic manoeuvre that seeks to reduce the influence of the political Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AA) and the military Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
There are currently around 3.5 million Syrian refugees settled in Turkey. Turkey had initially stated that it plans to send around two million Syrian refugees to the “safe-zone”, however, this number has now diminished to one million. Recent moves were made to deny Syrian refugees the Turkish identity card required to stay in the country and to expel refugees settled in Istanbul to other provinces in Turkey.
The “safe-zone” was formed following a Turkish-backed military offensive dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” was launched over a month ago in cooperation with local Syrian rebels, namely the Syrian National Army (SNA), against the Kurdish-dominated SDF, especially the People’s Protection Units (YPG), accused by Turkey of having links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey.
The creation of the “safe-zone” itself has led to the displacement of thousands of people from the region between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. A proportion of these displaced people have themselves become refugees, mostly finding refuge in neighbouring Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where camps have been set up to accommodate the new arrivals.