Turkey introduces visa restrictions for Syrians

The government in Ankara introduced visa restrictions Friday for Syrians entering Turkey by air or sea in order to stem the flow of migrants from the war-torn country.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the new rules were aimed at reducing the numbers of Syrians arriving indirectly from third countries like Lebanon or Egypt.

Many refugees try to enter Turkey from these countries in order to travel on to the European Union. UN refugee agency UNHCR says 800,000 people made the sea crossing to Greece from Turkey in 2015, most of them Syrians.

Syrians who enter Turkey by land directly from Syria were still welcome as refugees, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told dpa, stressing that the country would stand by its "open-door policy."

Human rights campaigners and Syrian activists complain that the reality on the ground is very much different. Turkish border guards were sending refugees back into Syria, which has been racked by a civil war since 2011.

Turkey has registered some 2.2 million Syrian refugees since the conflict started and houses them in 25 camps.

More than 250,000 people are believed to have died in the Syrian conflict and 11 million have been driven from their homes, or more than half the pre-war population.

At the end of November, Turkey and the EU reached an agreement that Ankara would do more to stop refugees making the sea crossing to Greece.

Last update: Fri, 08/01/2016 - 05:14
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