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REPUBLIC OF TURKEY: Turkey ‘safe country’ sham revealed as dozens of Afghans forcibly returned hours after EU refugee deal

29 Mar 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region: REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
Topic: Refugees and Migrants

The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning around 30 Afghan asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.

Turkey’s forcible return just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.

When contacted by Amnesty International about the returns, the Turkish Directorate General of Migration Management acknowledged the return of 27 Afghans, but insisted that all were returned voluntarily and that none had requested asylum.

A few hours after EU and Turkish leaders signed the deal in Brussels, Amnesty International received a panicked call from an Afghan asylum-seeker, “H.R.” [initials changed for security reasons]. He said he was being forcibly returned to Kabul along with around 30 other Afghans after their requests to apply for asylum in Turkey were refused.

H.R. said that he had been part of a group trying to reach Greece by boat. They were apprehended by the Turkish coastguard and then detained in the western coastal city of İzmir.

After five days in detention, he said he was physically forced to put his thumbprint on a document “agreeing” to a voluntary return to Afghanistan.

In recent months, growing numbers of refugees intercepted en route to Greece have been transferred to the EU-funded Erzurum Removals Centre, from which they have been forcibly returned to their countries of origin.

Returns to Turkey cannot proceed on the basis that Turkey is a safe country for refugees. The EU should adopt an independent resettlement plan and work with its partner Turkey to end the abuse of refugee rights.

Background

While Turkish law protects the right of asylum seekers to apply for asylum from detention, Amnesty International has documented many cases where this right has not been granted in practice. Asylum applications for people who remain within Turkey are rarely processed in practice. Amnesty International has repeatedly made freedom of information requests regarding the number of claims processed by the Turkish authorities and the number of people provided with refugee status. The authorities have repeatedly refused to provide this information on the grounds that it is “confidential”.

23 March 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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