HRW: Turkey pushes Afghans back at Iran border
“EU migration management support to Turkey should be made conditional on demonstrated assurances that support doesn’t contribute to denying people their right to seek asylum or to returning them to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened."
Turkey is routinely pushing tens of thousands of Afghans back at its land border with Iran or deporting them directly to Afghanistan with little or no examination of their claims for international protection, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 73-page report, “‘No One Asked Me Why I Left Afghanistan,’” says that Turkey has stepped up pushbacks and deportations to Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover there in August 2021. Human Rights Watch also found that Afghans inside Turkey are being blocked from registering for international protection and that Afghans facing imminent deportation are often given no opportunity to make refugee claims. As of October 20, 2022, the Presidency of Migration Management in Turkey’s Interior Ministry reported 238,448 “irregular migrants whose entrance to our country has been prevented” in 2022, most of them Afghans. Turkey reported deporting 44,768 Afghans by air to Kabul in the first eight months of 2022, a 150 percent increase over the first eight months of 2021.
“Although Turkey has rightly earned international acclaim and support for hosting the largest number of refugees of any country in the world, it is simultaneously pushing many Afghans back at its borders or deporting them to Afghanistan with little or no examination of their claims for international protection,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkey should immediately halt these routine pushbacks of Afghans from its borders and give all Afghans facing removal the opportunity to make refugee claims.”
Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees of any country in the world, an estimated 3.9 million people, 3.6 million Syrians with temporary protection and 320,000 others, mostly Afghans.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 68 Afghans, 38 of whom described 114 pushback incidents between January 2021 and April 2022. All the men and boys travelling without female family members personally experienced or witnessed Turkish authorities beating or otherwise abusing them and others who were with them. Many also said that Turkish border authorities shot in their direction, sometimes at them, as they approached or attempted to cross the border.
Human Rights Watch found that many Afghans facing imminent deportation are given no opportunity to make refugee claims or otherwise challenge their deportation, and their signatures or fingerprints on voluntary return forms are often forced, obtained through deception, or forged.
Pushbacks violate multiple human rights norms, including the prohibition of collective expulsion under the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to due process in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the principle of nonrefoulement under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits the return of refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. Turkish law also prohibits refoulement.
Because Turkish authorities block access to asylum, forcibly return people who appear to be refugees, and commit other abuses against migrants and people seeking international protection, Turkey does not meet the criteria of a safe third country provided by EU law under Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive, Human Rights Watch said.
“No EU member state should deny access to asylum for Afghans or other nationals under the pretense that Turkey would be a safe third country for them,” Frelick said. “EU’s migration management support to Turkey should be made conditional on demonstrated assurances that such support doesn’t contribute to denying people their right to seek asylum or to returning them to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.”