24 October 2022

A report from Human Rights Watch sheds light on Turkey’s contravention of the non refoulement principle

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested, detained, and forced back to Syria by Turkish authorities between February and July 2022, Human Rights Watch reports. The group, interviewing dozens of Syrian refugees, revealed how they were forced to sign “voluntary” return forms that they were not even allowed to read. Those who initially refused to sign, they recall, were systematically beaten by Turkish officials.

The interviewed refugees have declared they were forced to cross borders at either Öncüpınar/Bab al-Salam or Cilvegözü/Bab al-Hawa, both leading to Syrian regions that currently fall outside of the government control, and that they were threatened to be shot should they try and cross back.

Turkey, hosting approximately 3,7 million Syrian refugees, has witnessed a worrying increase in racist and xenophobic attacks against Syrians, as the population has been increasingly opposing the refugees’ permanence in the country. The question of repatriation is hence first of all a political issue, of which refugees are paying the price: in the lead-up to the forthcoming elections, opposition parties and President Erdogan’s coalition government have been releasing speeches that contributed to fuel an already widespread anti-refugee sentiment.

Nadia Hardman, researcher at Human Rights Watch, underlined how the European Union (EU) “should acknowledge that Turkey does not meet its criteria for a safe third country and suspend its funding of migration detention and border controls until forced deportations cease.” As a matter of fact, since the implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal, the EU has been providing billions of Euros to Turkey for migration management, regardless of its substantial failure to meet the safe third country criteria as defined by the EU law itself.


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by Laura Maschio