Turkey forcibly sending Syrians back to war zone: Amnesty
Amnesty International says Turkey has forcibly expelled thousands of Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland in recent months.
Turkish authorities have, on a daily basis, forced around 100 Syrian men, women and children to return home since mid-January, the UK-based rights group said in a report based on testimonies.
“In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s director for Europe and Central Asia.
The report also said such mass returns to Syria are “illegal” under Turkish, EU and international law.
“The large-scale returns of Syrian refugees we have documented highlight the fatal flaws in the EU-Turkey deal. It is a deal that can only be implemented with the hardest of hearts and a blithe disregard for international law,” Dalhuisen added.
On March 18, Ankara and the European Union signed a deal aimed at curbing the huge influx of asylum seekers, mostly Syrians, to Europe. Under the accord, one Syrian refugee will be settled in Europe legally in return for every refugee taken back by Turkey from Greece.
However, prominent rights groups, including Amnesty International, say the deal, which will take effect on April 4, poses threats to the rights of asylum seekers, questioning whether Turkey is a safe country for them.
They also argue that the agreement would turn the Greek registration sites into de facto detention centers for people due to be sent back to Turkey.
Amnesty further said research shows Turkey has likely expelled several thousand refugees to Syria “in the last seven to nine weeks,” warning “there is a very real risk that some of those the EU sends back to Turkey will suffer the same fate” if the agreement goes ahead as planned.
“The inhumanity and scale of the returns is truly shocking; Turkey should stop them immediately,” Dalhuisen said.
The rights body also said Ankara has tightened border controls and imposed new visa requirements for Syrians, a move which has pushed the violence-stricken refugees into the arms of smugglers who charge an average of USD 1,000 per crossing.
Reacting to the reports, Ankara rejected allegations that it is deporting refugees against their will.
A source with the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Reuters that Ankara has maintained an “open door” policy for Syrian refugees since the outbreak of crisis in the neighboring country five years ago.
Turkey has been a staunch supporter of the Takfiri terror groups operating to topple the government in Damascus.
Since the beginning of this year, over 1.2 million refugees have arrived in the EU. Most of them traveled across the Aegean Sea to Greece before heading north to wealthy countries like Germany and Sweden.
Many blame the pro-war policies adopted by Western states as the root cause of the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe and elsewhere in the world.