Nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees have been subjected to inhumane treatment while being deported from Turkey this year, according to a detailed report by Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ).
The report exposes the grim reality of the deportations, including physical abuse, the appropriation of personal possessions, and people being coerced into agreeing to “voluntary return” while detained.
Turkey, which has provided refuge to 3.6 million Syrians since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, is facing increased scrutiny over its handling of this vulnerable group. Concerns have escalated following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 2022 announcement of plans to resettle one million refugees in northern Syria, a region still fraught with instability and subject to demographic manipulation.
A previous STJ report from June 2022 suggested that Turkey is engineering demographic change in northern Syria, particularly in Afrin, by replacing the local Kurdish population with Arabs and Turkmens.
The deportations contravene Turkish Law 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection, which assures refugees temporary protection and prohibits forced return.
Anti-refugee sentiment has surged in Turkey as the country contends with economic woes. Syrians are frequently blamed for societal issues, including a perceived decrease in local wages. Outgoing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu stated in October 2022 that 529,000 Syrians had “voluntarily” returned home, a claim that the STJ report disputes.
The Turkish authorities have also recently mandated that Syrian refugees registered in other cities but staying in Istanbul must leave the metropolis by today, 24 September. Failure to comply will result in penalties under Turkish Law 6458. This directive has been met with criticism from refugee and human rights organisations, who are urging its reevaluation.
In a statement on Saturday, pro-Kurdish Green Left MP Perihan Koca criticised the government’s mandate, warning that this policy would further fragment refugee families and leave them even more vulnerable. She called for an end to what she termed as “dirty refugee politics” and urged the government to announce a well-planned refugee programme instead of continually sending the refugees from pillar to post.