Turkish authorities has been deporting refugees back to Syria, Amnesty International has learned when it interviewed 18 people by phone in July and September.
Syrian refugees said Turkish authorities in Istanbul and Antakya had arbitrarily detained them in immigration removal centres and forced them to sign forms they were not allowed to read but that they believed were voluntary repatriation forms. In some cases, they said, Turkish officials beat and threatened those who refused to sign.
They said the Turkish authorities then handed them over to the Syrian authorities at Turkey’s border with the war-ravaged Idlib governorate.
In late October, Amnesty International reported on 20 similar cases, while Istanbul’s Bar Association said that between early July and about August 20, it had received 180 complaints of police misuse of voluntary return forms.
In late July, Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, denied that Turkey had “deported” Syrians. He said that anyone “who voluntarily wants to go back to Syria” can sign voluntary return forms allowing them to return to unspecified “safe areas.”
A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said in late October that claims Syrians have been deported and abused were “untrue and imaginary” and that Turkey is “studiously implementing [its]policy of ‘non-refoulement’ (referring to the international prohibition on returning anyone to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life).”
Turkey still shelters 3.65 million Syrians – four times more than the entire European Union – under “temporary protection” regulation Turkish authorities say automatically applies to all Syrians seeking asylum.
But Turkey’s generosity and the EU’s unwillingness to take in more Syrian refugees has come at a high price, with the recent deportation of some Syrians from Turkish cities to Idlib just the latest of a long-running series of abuses.
Turkey initially had an open border policy for Syrian refugees.
But in 2015, Turkey closed its border with Syria, leaving 1.5 million Syrians now trapped with little assistance in displacement camps and villages in Idlib and Aleppo governorates on Syrian side.
Turkish border guards carry out mass summary pushbacks. They have killed and injured Syrians who tried to cross.
In late 2017 and early 2018, Istanbul and nine provinces on the border with Syria suspended registration of newly-arriving asylum seekers. (Source: HRW)