Refugees International is deeply concerned by the return in recent weeks of thousands of Afghan nationals from Turkey to Afghanistan where their safety is at risk. On April 23, Turkey’s minister of the interior announced that 7,100 Afghans had been returned to Afghanistan and that thousands more would follow shortly. From May 3 to May 6, the Turkish authorities returned an additional 775 Afghans via charter flights from Gaziantep and Izmir.
According to actors on the ground, the returnees are Afghan nationals who recently arrived in Turkey via its land border with Iran. The returnees were stopped by Turkish police and detained in deportation centers or other holding areas. There, they were coerced or misled into signing documents in Turkish – which they could not understand – stating they agreed to return to Afghanistan voluntarily. While some families were reportedly released and allowed to travel to Ankara to register with UNHCR, the majority were not given an opportunity to apply for asylum. The move follows an increase in arrivals in recent months, with nearly 18,000 arrivals between January and March 2018.
Refugees International stresses that forcible return of persons in need of international protection constitutes a violation of the principle of non-refoulement under the 1951 Refugees Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Returning a person to a country where he or she faces a risk of torture or other ill-treatment is also a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. RI urges the Turkish authorities to release any Afghan national who has been detained under such circumstances and to allow them to submit a claim for international protection. RI also urges the Turkish authorities to ensure that anyone who has been arrested or detained has access to an interpreter, if they so require, and to legal assistance.
For more on the status of non-Syrian refugees in Turkey, see the Refugees International report, “Except God, We Have No One”: Lack Of Durable Solutions For Non-Syrian Refugees In Turkey.