Amnesty Issues Urgent Action: Refugees At Risk of Being Forcibly Returned to Syria

A Syrian refugee family spend the day in the Aegean port city of Izmir, western Turkey, August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

A Syrian refugee family spend the day in the Aegean port city of Izmir, western Turkey, August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Amnesty International today issued an urgent action in the case of around 150 Syrian refugees at risk of being returned to Syria by Turkish authorities.  The action also notes that a smaller group of Iraqi refugees “were released from the camp on condition that they return to Iraq within a month. The refugees were travelling to Greece in a boat that sunk on 15 September leaving at least 22 dead, including children.”  Amnesty has urged its world-wide membership to take action and calls Turkish authorities to halt the return of refugees, release them from detention, and ensure that their right to lodge asylum claims is protected.

According to Amnesty International

The 150 Syrian refugees formed part of a group of over 250 refugees from Syria and Iraq who were on a boat crossing from Bodrum, in western Turkey, to the Greek island of Kos on 15 September. The refugees reported that the Turkish coastguard fired several shots at their boat, which then sank. The Turkish coastguard confirms 249 refugees were rescued and 22 bodies recovered, including children. Most of the refugees where first held in or around Bodrum, then transferred to a camp in Düziçi, Osmaniye province, on 17 September. They were transferred against their will and were not told where they were going. There could be up to 700 refugees in the Düziçi camp.

According to the Syrian refugees held in the camp, the authorities told them that they will be kept in the camp unless they agree to be returned to Syria, using the border crossings of Bab al-Hawa or Bab al-Salam. The crossings are under control of armed groups responsible for human rights abuses. Refugees in the camp also reported that most of the Iraqi refugees have been released, on condition that they return to Iraq within a month. The refugees reported having been told to sign documents in Turkish, which they could not understand. Amnesty International spoke to one Iraqi refugee who has returned to Iraq and is currently in hiding, fearing for his life.

Amnesty notes that, because of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, neither group of refugees should be forcibly returned to their home countries and underlines that the current detention of the refugees “appears to be arbitrary and thus  prohibited under international human rights law.”

Amnesty urges its members to write in Turkish or in your own language:

  • Calling on the Minister of Interior to immediately halt returns of refugees to Syria or Iraq;
  • Urging the Minister of Interior to release the remaining refugees, grant the Syrian refugees temporary protection status and enable refugees from other countries to lodge asylum claims in line with Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection;
  • Calling on the Minister of Justice to ensure that a prompt, independent and impartial investigation is carried out into the circumstances of the capture of the refugees’ boat on 15 September by the Turkish coastguard during which at least 22 refugees died after the boat sank.


Minister of Interior

Mr Selami Altınok
İçişleri Bakanlığı
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 425 85 09
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice
Mr Kenan İpek
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlığı
06659 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:

Chair of the Human Rights Institution
Dr. Hikmet Tülen
Yüksel Caddesi No. 23, Kat 3, Yenişehir
06650 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 31 422 29 96

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