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Turkey deports hundreds of Syrian refugees — HRW reports

October 24, 2022

Human Rights Watch says Turkey forcefully deported hundreds of Syrians between February and July 2022. Many refugees said they were forced to sign what they understood were voluntary repatriation forms.

Syrians walk along in a refugee camp for displaced people run by the Turkish Red Crescent in Sarmada district, north of Idlib city, Syria, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
Ankara in September dramatically shifted its tone towards Syria after a decade of hostilityImage: Francisco Seco/AP Photo/picture alliance

Turkish authorities arbitrarily arrested and deported hundreds of Syrian boys and men to Syria between February and July 2022, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The international non-profit group said deported Syrians told HRW researchers that many of them were arrested at their homes or workplaces, or even on the streets.

They said they were abused most of the time and forced to sign paperwork they understood were voluntary repatriation agreements. 

Turkey in breach of international law, says HRW

Persons interviewed by the human rights group said they were taken to the border with neighboring Syria and forced to cross at gunpoint.

"In violation of international law, Turkish authorities have rounded up hundreds of Syrian refugees, even unaccompanied children, and forced them back to Syria," Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

She added the European Union, which provides funding for migration detention centers in Turkey in exchange for Ankara reducing the flow of migrants to Europe, should cut aid until forced deportations ended.

HRW interviewed 37 Syrian men and two boys between February and August, as well as relatives of those who had been deported.

Those interviewed said they were deported with dozens or hundreds of others.

Is Syria safe for refugees?

Ankara may be perceived to be in breach of the international principle of non-refoulement where governments are obligated to not repatriate asylum seekers to countries where they face violence or persecution.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said last month that Syria was not safe for refugees to return.

The Commission said it continued to document grave violations of human rights, where arbitrary detention and torture remained systematic in goverment-controlled areas.

What is Turkey's position on Syria?

Turkey, once an avowed enemy of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has softened its stance towards its neighbor after a decade of hostility.

Ankara cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in the early years of the eleven-year conflict, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said two weeks ago that Syrian opposition and the government must be brought together for reconciliation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also recently signaled potential political engagement, saying diplomatic relations between the two countries could never fully be cut. Turkey is set for elections in June 2023.

Turkey has carried out four military operations in northern Syria since 2016, with Ankara saying it is creating a safe zone where some of 3.6 million Syrian refugees it is currently hosting could return.

Reuters material contributed to this report

Edited by: Rob Turner

Roshni Majumdar Roshni is a writer at DW's online breaking news desk and covers stories from around the world.@RoshniMaj