Sixteen human rights groups ask the EU and UN to stop Turkey’s deportations of Syrian refugees
Sixteen leading Syrian and international human rights organisations have written to senior EU and UN officials urging them to end Turkey’s illegal deportation of Syrian refugees back to Syria.
So far this year Turkey has deported 42,500 refugees*, a clear violation of international law. Deported refugees face arrest, harassment, and torture from the Syrian regime and armed groups, in addition to forced conscription by the regime.
The number of Syrian refugees being forced back to a warzone is expected to increase dramatically following Turkey’s announcement this week that it plans to create a “safe zone” to resettle some of the more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
The EU and UN provide billions of dollars to the Turkish government to help support the Syrian refugees in the country but they have both remained silent on the illegal deportations.
Turkey began deporting Syrian refugees a few months ago after ordering that they return to the Turkish cities that issued their papers. Local activists began reporting that police were arresting refugees as they travelled back to these cities and were forcing them to sign deportation documents. Refugees without papers, were similarly deported, despite the fact that Istanbul and nine other provinces stopped issuing them in 2017.
The letter’s 16 signatories are urging the EU and UN to press Turkey to end the deportations and, if necessary, send staff to Turkish removal centres to ensure that any returns are voluntary. The letter also states that EU states could and should do more to take in some of the Syrian refugees that Turkey is currently hosting.
Laila Kiki**, The Syria Campaign’s Executive Director, said:
“Syrians in Turkey fled their homes because they feared for their lives and forcing them to return is a death sentence for many. Some people who have already been deported back against their will have been arrested, disappeared or killed.
“No zone or area of northern Syria can be labelled “safe” when we’ve seen time and again how the Syrian regime is intent on bombing, torturing and shelling civilians there. Any claims of protection by Turkey are hollow words when it has been sending Syrians back to Idlib for months now in direct contravention of international law. People must remain free to return home only when they feel it is safe to do so.”