Amnesty: Turkey's expulsion of Syrian refugees violates international law

Published November 28th, 2015 - 09:20 GMT

Amnesty International has slammed Turkey for expelling dozens of Syrian refugees to their war-stricken country, saying the move is in violation of international law.

According to a new report released by the UK-based rights group, a total of about 80 Syrian asylum seekers, who were previously held incommunicado in a detention center in the Turkish city of Erzurum, were forced to leave for their country, with 50 more people facing deportation.

They were all arrested in September for holding a peaceful demonstration against being banned from entering Greece.

“Incommunicado detention has been strongly criticized by international human rights bodies,” the report said.

Moreover, forced deportation is also against international law, which forbids countries from returning asylum seekers to conflict zones where their lives are in danger, known as the non-refoulement principle, a principle of international law that forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor.

“These deportations violate Turkey’s domestic law as well as its international legal obligations. The deportations amount to refoulement banned under the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as numerous other binding instruments including the Convention against Torture,” the report further read, adding that the expelled refugees had no opportunities or legal representation to challenge their deportation.

The report also documented a number of cases of Syrian refugees that were beaten in detention and were forced to sign documents written in Turkish, a language that they could not understand, stating that they were leaving for their country at will.

“But these returns are anything but voluntary. Some told us that they were locked in a room until they agreed to sign. In other cases police officers literally took their hand and used their fingerprints to act as signature,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey's researcher for the rights group.

It is not the first time that the Turkish government has expelled Syrian asylum seekers to their country and put their lives at risk by deporting them. In 2013, hundreds of Syrians, who were kept at a refugee camp in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, were forcibly returned to their country.

The Syrian conflict, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to the United Nations.

The world body says some 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assistance. The foreign-sponsored militancy has also internally displaced 7.6 million people and compelled over four million others to take refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan and Turkey.

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