Turkey is deporting war refugees say rights activists

SHAFAQNA – Turkey once more has been accused of aggravated human rights violations by rights groups and rights activists. Allegations have surfaced that Ankara has allowed for a brutal campaign against Syrian war refugees – forcing many to be returned back across the borders, while others have hurled up in internment camps reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

In a report for the BBC Mark Lowen explains how he followed the journey of one man Ahmed. He writes: “Stray dogs prowled around the entrance. The fence was topped with barbed wire. It was an icy cold morning.

“We’re here to visit one of your inmates,” we said. The guards took our names – but not our professions. Journalists are not allowed inside detention centres, so we went undercover.

Soon, Ahmad appeared at the gate. “Nice to see you again,” he said. “You’ve lost weight.”

We first met Ahmad in September on the Turkey-Greece border in the town of Edirne.

He was among 2,000 Syrians who had camped out at the local stadium there, trying to travel legally across the land border into Greece, rather than risking their lives in overcrowded rubber boats.

After a few days, they were cleared away by police. But not all obeyed. About 120 vowed to stay put.

Deemed “troublesome”, they were rounded up by police and taken off by bus. We followed as they arrived at the local detention camp.

The policemen refused to tell us their final destination. Through the railings, dozens of inmates already there shouted from their windows, one gesturing that his arm had been broken.

Suddenly we lost the mobile phone contact that we had kept with a handful of them.

In early December, Ahmad got in touch. He was in a new detention camp, he said, in Tekirdag – a two-hour drive from Istanbul.”



Tekirdag detention centre


In his testimony to the BBC Ahmed explained how his companions had been sent back over the border, left to die in Syria.

Under the “non-refoulement” principle of international humanitarian law, a state is prohibited from deporting individuals to a war zone.

But Turkey is not just returning people back to war, it is also abusing those refugees still on its land.


Picture of Ahmad's bruised leg
Ahmad says he was “beaten badly in detention”

More than 2 million Syrians are in Turkey. Many are settled here, glad of sanctuary. But others are using it as a transit to Europe.

Of the more than one million migrants and refugees who travelled to the European Union in 2015, most have come through Turkey.

The Turkish government has now signed a deal with the EU to receive about €3bn (£2.2bn; $3.3bn) to stem the flow.

But that is contingent on improving conditions for refugees so more feel they can stay here, not deporting them back to a war zone.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty's head in Turkey
Amnesty’s Andrew Gardner says sending refugees back to Syria is “absolutely illegal” both under Turkish and international law

Amnesty International says its research has found that scores – possibly hundreds – of refugees and asylum-seekers have been sent back to Syria and Iraq.

“This is absolutely illegal, both under Turkish and international law, because you cannot forcibly return someone to a place where their lives and rights are in danger,” said Andrew Gardner, the head of Amnesty in Turkey.

“The EU needs to wake up to the fact that on its own borders, international law is being broken on a regular basis.

“And the EU needs to wake up to the fact that its gatekeeper in Turkey is violating the rights of refugees in detaining them secretly and arbitrarily – and returning them to Syria.”

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