Hundreds of Syrian refugees leave Turkish city after clashes

Istanbul (AFP) - The Turkish authorities were moving hundreds of Syrian refugees Thursday from the southern city of Gaziantep to camps, after three nights of violent protests by locals angered by their presence, reports said.

Tensions between Turkish residents and Syrian refugees in Gaziantep have flared in recent days since the murder of a Turkish landlord allegedly stabbed to death by his Syrian tenant.

Some 50 Turkish residents in Gaziantep have been arrested over the violent protests, which started on Monday night and have seen anti-riot police fire tear gas to quell the unrest, NTV television said.

About a dozen Syrian refugees were wounded in the violence. Four Syrian refugees have now been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the Turkish landlord.

The authorities were moving 2,000 Syrians from 400 families on buses out of the city to nearby refugee camps, the Milliyet and Radikal newspapers reported in their online editions.

Gaziantep governor Erdal Ata confirmed that 400 Syrian families were leaving to camps, although he did not link the move directly with the violence.

"We found 400 Syrian families living in bad conditions, in abandoned buildings. We are taking control of the houses and sending them to refugee camps from now," he said.

They were taken to nearby refugee camps in the cities of Sanliurfa and Mardin, the Dogan news agency reported.

A Turkish official told AFP some Syrians hesitated to leave their houses because of the ensuing tensions and he could not immediately confirm how many left the city.

The mayor of Gaziantep, Fatma Sahin, urged locals to show tolerance, saying a new refugee camp was being built and it was wrong to blame all crime on Syrians.

"I see that there are people who want to provoke different communities," she said in televised comments. "We must react sensibly," she said.

Turkey is hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incoming president, announced an "open door" policy for all those fleeing the civil war.

Many live in camps along the volatile border. But others are living in cities throughout the country -- including Istanbul and the big cities of the south -- and their presence has become an increasing source of social tension.

In a separate development, some 200 Turkish workers were protesting in the Aegean city of Izmir about the low-cost labour of Syrian refugees, reports said.

"The boss likes low-cost labour", "We don't want Syrian workers" they shouted in the protest.