Kurdish refugees flee as Turkey hits PKK
Published 27/02/2016 | 02:30
Turkish Kurds are joining the refugee flow across the Mediterranean as Ankara's crackdown on Kurdish militants is driving tens of thousands from their homes.
When the Turkish coastguard intercepted a crowded wooden boat carrying more than 200 migrants to Greece on Tuesday, the rescue crew was stunned to discover a dozen of their own countrymen among them.
The 12 Turkish Kurds said they were "fleeing terror" in the country's southeast, where intense fighting and month-long military lockdowns have emptied entire neighbourhoods.
European officials hope Ankara will stem the flow of refugees and serve as the continent's gatekeeper. They have promised an aid package worth €3bn and the resumption of the stalled EU-accession process in return. But Turkey is now rapidly creating a wave of displacement of its own.
Last month, opposition parties and human-rights groups said Turkey's resurgent conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) had forced as many as 200,000 civilians to leave their homes.
The Turkish government has put the number at 93,000.
The collapse of a two-year-old ceasefire between the PKK and Turkey last summer plunged the region back into crisis. In December, the conflict began to escalate when authorities put several towns under siege-like blanket curfews while security forces battled Kurdish militants in the streets and shelled suspected PKK targets.
Since then, more than 1,000 PKK fighters have been killed, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. Turkish human rights organisations say some 200 civilians have been killed.
A number of districts are still under lockdown.
On Wednesday, Turkish police arrested British MP Natalie McGarry while she was visiting Sur, the city centre of the de facto Kurdish capital Diyarbakir, which has been under curfew for more than two months.
She was released soon after, tweeting that she was "fine and absolutely safe". (© Daily Telegraph, London)