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Turkey: Refugees at the Border Faced with Choice Between Detention and Return, Report Finds

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A recent report from The Guardian documents increasing barriers to access to Turkish territory for Syrian refugees. People arriving at the border province of Hatay are pressured into signing “voluntary return” documents, advised by authorities that they are either to waive their right to seek protection or face indefinite detention.

The Turkish Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) has stated to The Guardian that 250,000 Syrians have opted for voluntary return until now and that, in line with the principle of non-refoulement, no deportations of Syrians have been carried out. However human rights organisations have documented cases of arbitrary detention and deportation of Syrians from Hatay, as well as Iraqis from Van, and Afghans from Erzurum and Osmaniye, in the past two years. The reports corroborate allegations of coercion into signing voluntary return documents.

According to the report, stricter controls on the movement of refugees within the country’s territory have resulted in Syrians being placed in Removal Centres such as Oğuzeli, in Gaziantep, with a view to deportation. So far this year, UNHCR has been contacted by 117 people detained in Gaziantep have been scheduled for deportation to Syria. Refugees detained in Removal Centres such as Gaziantep and Hatay face substandard living conditions, while various obstacles hinder lawyers’ access to them.

Pre-removal detention is a persisting problem in Turkey, as judicial review of detention orders remains ineffective. A significant majority of magistrates’ court rulings on detention review continue to uphold DGMM detention orders without rigorous assessment, while courts often refrain from performing periodic reviews in accordance with the law.

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*This article was first published by AIDA