As a number of countries, including Turkey, put more pressure on Syrian refugees to return home, accounts of torture inflicted on returnees have been emerging from Syria, Amnesty International said in a report published on Tuesday.
According to the report, titled “You’re going to your death,” Syrian authorities subjected former refugees to detention, torture and sexual violence. Amnesty recorded 27 cases of enforced disappearance. In five cases, authorities eventually informed families that their disappeared relatives had died in custody; five were eventually released; and the fate of the other 17 people remains unknown.
While countries like Turkey restrict protection and put pressure on Syrians to go home, there is proof that no part of Syria is safe to return to, the report said. What is more, Syrian authorities are targeting returnees in particular, accusing them of disloyalty or terrorism.
“The Assad government has attempted to depict Syria as a country in recovery. The Syrian authorities are still perpetrating the widespread and systematic human rights violations that contributed to millions of people seeking safety abroad,” said Marie Forestier, Amnesty International’s researcher on refugee and migrant rights in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Syrian civil war, which started in 2011, has claimed more than half a million lives and has prompted millions to flee the country.
Amnesty International called on the governments of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to “protect Syrian refugees from deportation or any other forcible return, in line with their international obligations.”
The human rights watchdog also urged “European governments to grant refugee status to people from Syria, and immediately halt any practice directly or indirectly forcing people to return to Syria.”
According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.
A previous report by Human Rights Watch said Turkish authorities had been deporting Syrians since at least 2019. Many Syrians said they were detained and forced to sign voluntary repatriation forms, after which they were sent back to Syria on buses.
The İstanbul Bar Association said they had received 180 complaints of police misuse of voluntary return forms between early July and August 2019.
These allegations were denied by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.