In response to news that Turkey has deported hundreds of Syrians back to Syria, Sahar Atrache, Refugees International's Senior Advocate for the Middle East, issued the following statement:
Refugees International is gravely concerned by credible reports of Turkey’s deportation of Syrians in Istanbul to Idlib in northwest Syria and calls for the immediate halt to any such forcible returns.
On Monday, Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes in the province killed more than 50 people. Idlib is a war zone where civilians are killed daily. No person in need of international protection should be forcibly returned to Syria. Refugees International spoke to Syrians who said they had been deported. One man told Refugees International that after being detained for several days in Istanbul, he was forcibly transported to Idlib without being allowed to contact his wife and children, who remain in Turkey. A Syrian activist told RI that religious minorities including a Christian and an Ismaili deported from Turkey were being held by Hay’at Tahrir As-Sham, the extremist group controlling large swaths of the province. Some of those deported had Turkish temporary protection status.
Forcibly returning refugees to their home country constitutes refoulement and there is no excuse for it; it is a violation of international law and puts lives at grave risk. In the past, Turkey has shown a great hospitality to Syrian refugees. It currently hosts more than 3.5 million Syrians, and it should continue to provide refuge for civilians who have sought its protection. Refugees International calls on the Turkish government to immediately cease any deportation of Syrians to Syria.
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