Asylum seekers injured and killed at Turkish border

Border between Turkey and Syria. A deadly zone since August 2015 for Syrians trying to reach Turkey Border between Turkey and Syria. A deadly zone since August 2015 for Syrians trying to reach Turkey AFP/Getty Images/Bulent Kilic

10 May 2016
Five people killed, including a child, and 14 others injured by Turkish border guards firing at Syrians attempting to reach Turkey.

Since at least mid-August 2015, Turkish border guards have pushed back Syrians trying to reach Turkey.  According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), during March and April 2016, Turkish border guards used violence against Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers, killing five people, including a child, and seriously injuring 14 others. The report also revealed that Turkish border guards had blocked thousands of fleeing displaced persons after their camps near the border had been hit by artillery fire on April 13 and April 15.  

Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has rejected the claims and has maintained that the country has an “open-door policy” for Syrian refugees, despite the building of a new border wall. Gerry Simpson from HRW  has argued, “while senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them. Firing at traumatized men, women, and children fleeing fighting and indiscriminate warfare.”

The U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has urged Turkish authorities to allow independent investigators to probe the alleged attacks, which he called “extremely alarming.” Following the report made public by HRW, a senior Turkish official said that the government was “unable to verify”  the authenticity of a video, posted by the HRC (Human Rights Commission), that shows the bodies of Syrian refugees killed by Turkish forces at the border. The HRC has called on Turkey to investigate the claims in its report of border guards firing at Syrians escaping artillery fire.

In March, the European Union (EU) reached a deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants reaching Europe.  Under the terms of the agreement, migrants who arrived in Greece illegally would be sent back to Turkey in exchange for the EU resettling a limited number of Syrian refugees from Turkey, allowing for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, and providing more than $6 billion dollars in foreign aid.  However, these reports will likely bring further scrutiny to the recent deal and has also prompted the European Commission to call on Turkey to modify its terrorism legislation.


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