Human Rights Watch: Turkey pushing Syrians back into danger

In one incident, a man tried to cross with his family and about 20 other Syrians near Bab al-Hawa on Oct. 10, but said Turkish border guards intercepted his group, assaulted him and some of the other men, striking their heads and torsos, took them to a nearby military base and then returned them to Syria.

According to the report, Simpson said, “The sheer exhaustion and desperation Syrian families go through after fleeing for their lives and literally scrambling their way to safety through the night across the Turkish border is written all over their faces,” adding, “Turkey should not be putting people escaping war through such hardship.”

The HRW reported that “as of mid-November, Turkey had registered almost 2,200,000 Syrians, of whom about 250,000 live in 25 camps managed by the Turkish authorities. In September, Turkey said it had spent US$7.6 billion on assisting Syrian refugees since 2011. Turkey deserves credit and support for hosting these refugees, but is obliged to keep its borders open to people seeking asylum.”

As the influx of Syrian refugees continues, many interviewed noted this has only increased after Russian-Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo and Idlib since September.

“We heard that 50 people died in an airstrike in a village three kilometers from our home. That was the last straw. We were suffering from a lack of electricity and gas and no jobs and no schools for our children, but the fear of being killed from the air was too much. We left our home in the dead of night and two days later heard that it was destroyed in a strike,” stated a woman from Mshareh.

HRW conducted interviews with 51 Syrian refugees during the second half of October, and in all these interviews the refugees stated the only way to enter Turkey was through Turkish smugglers. In the aftermath of the Suruc bombing, Turkey increased its border control, making it more difficult for refugees to enter the country.

Another point of common knowledge among the refugees was that entry into neighboring Turkey from their war-torn homeland was best possible from the mountainous Antakya region where it was more difficult to be detected by Turkish authorities. Smugglers told Human Rights Watch some of the border areas had very few border guards while in other areas border guards often turned a blind eye to people crossing at night. The crossing though, due to this difficult terrain, proved to be physically difficult, especially for the elderly and for women and children. “In some cases, elderly people fell down steep inclines. One woman said she saw an old man die after such a fall. Some groups used women’s veils to create makeshift ropes to pull women and children up particularly steep hills,” the report stated.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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