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Turkey blocks Syrian refugees seeking to return to Tal Abyad

map_of_turkeyTurkey on Thursday closed its border post of Akcakale on the Syrian frontier, preventing Syrian refugees who had fled fighting in the town of Tal Abyad from returning home, an AFP correspondent reported.

Turkish security forces said they were not allowing refugees across because Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia has closed the gate on the other side of the border. But the YPG denied this was the case.

The YPG had earlier this week ousted Islamic State (IS) jihadists from Tal Abyad after fighting that prompted some 23,000 Syyrian refugees to flee into Turkey.

Hundreds of Syrians had returned home on Wednesday as calm returned to the town. But on Thursday the Turkish authorities were not allowing through some 200 waiting refugees.

They said they had been told that the border would not open until Monday, meaning they will miss celebrating the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at home.

“Today we came to the gate hoping we can cross into Tal Abyad, I have been waiting since 7:00 am in the morning but they are not letting us in,” said Emine, 60.

“If they have some mercy, they let us go back to our home. It’s Ramadan for god’s sake!”

The YPG, who now control Tal Abyad, denied that they were responsible for the border closure.

“From our point of view, the border is open… It’s the Turks who closed the border from their side,” YPG spokesman Redur Khali told AFP in Beirut, adding that people were continuing to return through unofficial crossing points.

Turkey, which has taken in some 1.8 million Syrian refugees since the conflict started in 2011, has repeatedly said that it has been left to shoulder an unfair burden.

But it has also faced accusations itself of letting IS fighters cross back and forth across its borders, accusations Ankara vehemently denies.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Wednesday held an unannounced meeting in Ankara with top officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and the head of Turkey’s emergency aid agency Fuat Oktay, about the Syria crisis.

They discussed the latest influx of migrants into Turkey but no more details were released, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

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