‘You Must Make a Choice: Go to Prison or Return to Syria’

Amnesty International's report entitled Sent to a War Zone: Turkey's Illegal Deportations of Syrian Refugees has indicated that Syrian refugees in Turkey were intimidated or beaten in order to make then sign the 'voluntary return' forms.

Ahead of Turkey's attempts to form a "safe zone" in northern Syria, Amnesty International has published its report on forcibly deported refugees entitled "Sent to a War Zone: Turkey's Illegal Deportations of Syrian Refugees."

"The organization met or spoke with refugees who said Turkish police had beaten or threatened them into signing documents stating they were asking to return to Syria, when in reality Turkey was forcing them back to a war zone and putting their lives in grave danger", the organization has informed.

According to the report of the organization, while the "most common explanation given to people for their deportation is that they are unregistered or outside their province of registration", even the ones "with valid IDs for their province of residence have been deported."

'Many Syrians were coerced or misled'

The report has also shared the following evaluations and comments:

"The European Union and the rest of the international community, instead of devoting their energies to keeping people seeking asylum from their territories, should dramatically increase resettlement commitments for Syrian refugees from Turkey.

"The Turkish government claims that all those who return to Syria do so voluntarily, but Amnesty International's research showed that many had been coerced or misled when signing so-called 'voluntary return' documents.

"Some said they were beaten or threatened with violence to force them to sign. Others were told they were signing a registration document, that it was a confirmation of having received a blanket from a detention centre, or a form that expressed their desire to remain in Turkey."

'You have a choice: Prison or you go to Syria'

Amnesty International has also shared the following experiences and accounts of refugees who met or spoke with the organization's researchers:

"Qasim*, a 39-year-old father from Aleppo, said he was detained in a Konya police station for six days, where the officers reportedly told him: 'You have a choice: one or two months, or a year, in prison � or you go to Syria.'

"John, a Syrian Christian, said Turkish migration officials told him: 'If you ask for a lawyer we will keep you six or seven months and we will hurt you.'

'We were deported to Idlib on a bus'

"Kareem, a 23-year-old man from Aleppo, said he was deported from Istanbul with two children aged 15 and 16, who were unregistered. Their mothers pleaded with the authorities outside the bus while their children were inside, but military police reportedly said the boys were breaking the law because they had no IDs, and that they would therefore be deported.

"Nabil, a young man with a wife and two-year-old son, told Amnesty International that he and his family were detained in Ankara in June 2019, alongside more than 100 other people.

"All the detainees were families except for three single men. Nabil said that after three days, they were told they were being taken to a camp in Hatay province, but instead they were all deported by bus to Idlib."

'My three children were left destitute'

"On 3 July 2019, Farid, a 40-year old Syrian man from Aleppo province, was leaving work in Istanbul's Esenyurt district when the police stopped him and asked to see his identification. After the officers saw that he was registered in Sanliurfa province, in the south-east of Turkey, they put him on a bus and took him to a detention centre in Pendik.

"After about a week there, he was transferred to another detention centre in Edirne, where he was asked to sign a paper. The Arabic interpreter reportedly told him the document simply confirmed receipt of a blanket.

"But when Farid read the Arabic text on the form, which articulated a desire to return to Syria, he argued with the interpreter, who reportedly put his own signature and fingerprint on the document.

"Farid said he was put on a large bus along with 32 other men and several Gendarmerie personnel, who reportedly hit them during the journey. After 26 hours, the bus reached the Bab Al Hawa border and he entered Idlib in north-western Syria on 20 July.

"His wife and three of his children were left destitute in Istanbul and therefore joined him � he said the alternative was for them to beg on the streets."

Source: English Bianet