In recent months, there has been an increasing number of reports about deportations of Syrian refugees from Turkey back to Syria. The economic downturn, politicisation of discourse on displaced Syrians and, in some cases, dehumanizing language targeting Syrians on social media, have created an atmosphere resulting in the rise of such cases in the country which hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees.
Some of these cases include people being taken to the so-called “repatriation centres” for misdemeanours or being stopped without documents, while in other cases people have reported being pressured into signing statements of “voluntary return”. The reports of such deportations have caused a great deal of concern and fear among Syrian refugees, who fear premature return into an unsafe Syria. At the same time, there is also unreliable information being circulated about these cases, which is causing even more confusion and concern.
To establish what is in fact happening, is there a legal basis for such decisions of Turkish authorities, are they in line with Turkish and international law, and what can displaced Syrians do in such situations, we spoke to two lawyers working on similar cases.
Kurtuluş Baştimar is a Turkish lawyer, an international legal advisor and the Asia Director of Prisoners Defenders International, while Rami Al-Kasem is a Syrian lawyer providing legal aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and a member of Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity.