Turkish Border Guards Shoot, Block Fleeing Syrian Asylum Seekers

SOL INTERNATIONALTurkey’s border guards are indiscriminately shooting and forcibly returning Syrian asylum seekers, who are trying to cross into Turkey, a prominent international human rights watchdog said.

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Syrians are trying, in particular, to escape violence in Idlib and Afrin and find asylum in Turkey, however, the border remains closed to all but critical medical cases.

“Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse … As fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaces thousands more, the number of Syrians trapped along the border willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey is only likely to increase,” Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said as quoted in the press release on Saturday.

Those refugees who succeeded in crossing to Turkey told the watchdog that the Turkish border guards shot at them, as well as beat asylum seekers and denied them medical assistance.

The HRW added that it had informed the Turkish interior minister about the situation on the border.

President Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalin, asked about the HRW statement, told reporters that Turkish soldiers were there to protect these people and that Ankara has had an “open-door policy” since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

On January 20, the Turkish AKP government launched an offensive in Syria’s Afrin. The operation has been conducted jointly with the Free Syrian Army terrorists. Damascus has firmly condemned the operation as an assault on Syria’s sovereignty.