HRW report reveals ordeals faced by Syrian asylum seekers attempting to enter Turkey

Alia Soliman , Monday 23 Nov 2015

A Kurdish Syrian refugee waits for transport during a sand storm on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, September 24, 2014. (Photo:Reuters)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Monday documenting accounts of Syrian asylum seekers attempting to enter Turkey to flee violence in their war-torn country.

The watchdog organisation interviewed in October 51 Syrians in Turkey, all of whom could only enter the country with the aid of human traffickers, which exposed them to a deal of danger.

Turkey tightened its border security following a suicide bombing attack that killed 32 people in the Turkish border town of Suruç in July, making it more difficult for refugees to enter the country. The attack was linked to the ISIS militant group, which has a strong foothold in parts of Syria.

The HRW report also stated that the double suicide bombing which killed 102 people assembled for a peace rally in the Turkish capital Ankara in October has deepened concerns about the impact of the Syrian conflict within Turkey. The attack has also been linked to the ISIS militant group.

A number of the refugees interviewed by HRW stated that they were intercepted by Turkish border guards, who in some cases inflicted upon them physical abuse before either instantly sending them back to Syria or to detention centres, after which they were summarily expelled.  

More than four million Syrians have fled the civil war since March 2011, with the number of dead estimated at more than 250,000, according to an AFP report.

Turkey has hosted 1.6 million refugees escaping the four-and-a-half year conflict.

"Turkey's border closure is forcing pregnant women, children, the elderly, the sick and the injured to run the gantlet of Turkish border officials to escape the horrors of Syria's war,” Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW, said in the report.

"Syrians need protection, not pushbacks to a war zone,” Simpson said. “Turkey, the EU and the US should work closely together to ensure that Syrians can flee threats to their lives and find the protection they deserve.”

According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Article 31 of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that all asylum seekers are to be "fully protected in large-scale influx situations, to reaffirm the basic minimum standards for their treatment pending arrangements for a durable solution, and to establish effective arrangements in the context of international solidarity and burden-sharing for assisting countries which receive large numbers of asylum seekers."

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