DUBAI: Syrians are being “detained” and “coerced” to go back to their war-torn country by Turkish authorities, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch on Saturday.
“Turkey claims it helps Syrians voluntarily return to their country, but threatening to lock them up until they agree to return, forcing them to sign forms, and dumping them in a war zone is neither voluntary nor legal,” Gerry Simpson, associate Emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said.
According to the report, Syrians are being coerced into signing forms saying they want to return to Syria, and then detained before they are sent back to conflict zones including Idlib and Aleppo, where more than 400,000 people already died in the armed conflict.
Although the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu denied such claims, several Syrians testified to have experienced maltreatment from Turkish authorities, drawing criticisms from rights groups.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees called on states not to “forcibly return Syrian nationals and former habitual residents of Syria,” and argues that asylum seekers “need international refugee protection.”
Over 3.6 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey – half a million of them in Istanbul. Recently, Turkey has intensified its crackdown on “unregistered” refugees, increasing police spot-checks of Syrians’ registration documents.
“Turkey should protect the basic rights of all Syrians, regardless of registration status, and register those denied registration since late 2017,” HRW’s report said, citing an international law that prohibits the return of anyone to “a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life.”