SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Fifty-four Kurdish refugees were repatriated to the Kurdistan Region on Saturday, ten days after being stranded in Syria, according to Esta Media Network reporter and a refugee watchdog.
Turkey deported nearly 60 people from the Kurdistan Region to Syria last week, according to the Lutka Foundation for Refugees and Displaced Affairs.
Head of Lutka foundation Ari Jalal said the refugees were detained by Turkish police in Izmir as they were trying to cross into Greece.
They were held at a refugee camp in Gaziantep for over 10 days before they were handed over to Turkish-backed militant groups in Syria, he added.
Esta Media Network reporter said 54 of the refugees were repatriated to the Kurdistan Region with the help of Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.
“We were in a very bad condition. We were given only one meal per day,” one of the refugees told Esta Media Network.
He said as many as 54 out of 57 refugees were returned.
“The three other refugees are still missing, and we don’t know where they were taken,” he added, calling on the Iraqi and Kurdish governments to locate them and repatriate them to the Region.
The head of Lutka foundation told Esta Media Network that the three other refugees had gone missing after they tried to illegally cross the border to Turkey again.
“The three were detained again as they were trying to illegally cross into Turkey,” Jalal said. “They had said they were not planning to return to the Kurdistan Region, but we are still investigating to bring them back.”
The deputy prime minister’s office had been in contacts with the related authorities to return the refugees, he added.
He also thanked the Iraqi ministry of migration and displacement as well as the Iraqi embassy in Ankara to coordinate with the foundation to bring them back to the Region.
Thousands of people from the Kurdistan Region have migrated to European countries following an economic crisis that hit the Region in 2014.
In October 2020, the Kurdistan parliament’s committee of relations and Kurdish diaspora said nearly 14,500 youths from the Region had migrated to European countries in the year due to economic crisis, political situation, injustice and corruption.
Twenty-seven had gone missing, it added.
Nearly 450,000 people in the Region and Iraq had migrated to Europe between 2014 and 2020, according to the parliament’s committee.