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HRW: Turkey regularly deporting thousands of Syrian refugees at border

Protesters against the deportation of Syrians gather in Lesbos, Greece [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 March, 2018

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Security forces have regularly detained and then deported thousands of Syrian asylum-seekers along Turkey's southern border since at least mid-December, Human Rights Watch has found.
Turkish security forces have regularly detained and summarily deported thousands of Syrian asylum-seekers at the Turkish-Syrian border since at least December 2017, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

Armed personnel have also reportedly shot and killed asylum seekers who tried to enter Turkey via smuggling routes.

Many of the asylum-seekers come from Idlib, where 400,000 civilians have been displaced due to the Russian-Syrian offensive against rebels in the area.

More than 1.3 million other Syrians are trapped inside Idlib, living in overcrowded tent communities near the border. 

"As border guards try to seal the last remaining gaps in Turkey's border, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are trapped in fields to face the bombs on the Syrian side," said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee rights programme director at HRW.

Turkey has denied opening fire on asylum-seekers. The Ministry of Interior told HRW that "while maintaining the security of borders against terrorist organisations, Turkey continues to accept Syrians in need [...]".

The Turkish Directorate General of Migration Management also said that more than 91,000 Syrians have come across the Turkish border in 2018 so far. However, HRW has documented 137 incidents since mid-December where Turkish authorities intercepted asylum-seekers. 

Turning asylum-seekers back contravenes the principle of nonrefoulement, which bars countries from deporting individuals who face risk of harm if sent back. This includes a prohibition on rejecting asylum seekers at borders that would expose them to such threats. 

Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, according to the UN. As of December, Turkish authorities have erected almost 800 kilometres of a 911-kilometre border wall with Syria.

In March 2016, Turkey struck a controversial deal with the EU to curb refugee and migration flows to Europe in exchange for billions in funds.

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