Ahmed Abdulkadir Muhammed is a Syrian refugee from Afrin, who decried the treatment of Kurdish refugees residing in Turkey.
There has been increasing evidence that not only does Turkey cause massive humanitarian crises in the form of displacement in Syria, but their treatment of refugees and migrants in their own country is cruel and in frequent violation of human rights and international law. This is despite the fact that Turkey often tries to present itself as the saviour and safe haven for all refugees compared to members of the EU.
On Monday, 24 October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report showing Turkey’s violations and crimes against refugees and asylum seekers between February and July of 2022.
The report details accounts of Syrians who were arbitrarily arrested, beaten, and violently forced to sign ‘voluntary’ return forms.
A researcher who focuses on migrant rights with HRW, named Nadia Hardman can be quoted as saying:
“In violation of international law Turkish authorities have rounded up hundreds of Syrian refugees, even unaccompanied children, and forced them back to northern Syria…Although Turkey provided temporary protection to 3.6 million Syrian refugees, it now looks like Turkey is trying to make northern Syria a refugee dumping ground.”
The report specifically comments on the treatment of Syrian refugees, but there have also been accounts of Afghan and Iranian refugees being mistreated by Turkey. For example, in August of 2021 two Iranian refugees were forced to return to Iran due to participating in a peaceful protest.
The refugees who are able to stay are not much better off. Medya News claimed in June of 2021 that refugees are often housed in dreadful conditions including barns and are denied regular access to food and water. Even when they do get food it is often only bread and at an incredibly inflated price.
Medya News also noted that it is highly suspicious that refugees remain in such poor conditions considering that the European Union (EU) has granted Turkey billions of Euros to take care of the refugees they host. Supposedly Turkey has spent over $40 billion on the refugees in their region. Where is this money going if even the most basic necessities are being denied?
On 14 October, the Rojava Information Centre (RIC) reported that in 2022 a minimum of 34,000 Syrian refugees have been forced to return to Syria. Often not to their original homes, and often not returning to safe conditions.
@STJ_SYRIA_ENG corroborated the forcible return of over 155,000 Syrian refugees between 2019 and 2021. RIC calculates that 2022 has so far seen over 34,000 Syrians deported. pic.twitter.com/w1j9CKWRMB
— Rojava Information Center (@RojavaIC) October 14, 2022
This graphic shows the rate of deportations of refugees back into Syria, often into regions held by the Syrian National Army (SNA) or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) from January until September 2022. Rojava Information Center, October 2022
Turkey is especially unsafe for any Kurdish refugees who have been forced to flee there. In December of 2021, Medya News spoke with a Kurdish refugee named Ahmed Abdulkadir Muhammed. Ahmed made it very clear that Turkey can never be a true refuge for a Kurd, saying: “Can Kurds who call themselves Kurds walk the streets of Turkey in safety? Even our dead and our graves are under attack from this state. But they still say, ‘Turkey is a safe country for you’. Let Turkey withdraw from Afrin, then we’ll go back.”
The fact that Turkey is not safe for refugees must be recognized, but it is blatantly ignored. In fact, Greece made a statement in June of 2021 declaring Turkey to be a safe country for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. The result of this statement was an increase of asylum seekers coming through Turkey being denied entrance into Greece. This was due to the belief that Turkey is safe for Syrians and others, but evidence and thousands of accounts prove this wrong. Tragically, until this truth is recognized it will be difficult for all asylum seekers to achieve their goal of continuing their lives in peace.
*Robin Fleming is an American researcher who worked with the Rojava Information Centre and focuses on North East Syria.