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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 09 Unlawful deportations of Syrians must stop
UA 128/19
Abgeschlossen am 8. November 2019

Unlawful deportations of Syrians must stop

AI-Index: EUR 44/1117/2019

Over the past few months, the Turkish authorities have been deporting Syrian refugees to Syria in violation of international and domestic law. At the same time, refugees whose Turkish identification documents are no longer valid are unable to renew them, even though Turkish law permits this. Turkey must halt all deportations to Syria and allow refugees to renew their IDs.


Turkey is the world’s largest host of refugees, presently at about 4 million, most of them (over 3.6 million) from Syria. In theory, all Syrians in Turkey are granted «Temporary Protection» status, but they must register and receive ID documents in order to access essential services, including healthcare and education. The Turkish authorities have spent billions of Euros hosting this population, with some financial support from the European Union (EU).

Despite claims to the contrary by Turkey and the EU, Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers. Amnesty International as well as other organizations have received credible and consistent evidence of deportations to Syria between 2014 and 2018. Refoulement, or deporting someone to a risk of serious human rights violations, is prohibited under both Turkish law and international law instruments to which Turkey is a signatory. Syrian refugees usually say that they are forced or tricked into signing a so-called Voluntary Return Agreement, sometimes written only in Turkish. Upon their expulsion to Syria, their Temporary Protection identification documents are cancelled. Those who manage to re-enter the country (virtually always irregularly, since the border is effectively closed) are left without any legal status, and are particularly vulnerable to deportation.

Some people do return to Syria on a truly voluntary basis, for instance to bring back elderly relatives or renew passports. These people have told Amnesty that they were not informed of the consequences of leaving Turkey, and after their (necessarily irregular) re-entry, have found that their Temporary Protection status has been cancelled.

On 7 January 2019, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) issued a circular clarifying that Temporary Protection ID-holders who had lost their status should be able to reinstate it. However, for reasons that are unclear, it appears virtually impossible to renew or reinstate Temporary Protection status once it has been removed, regardless of how the loss occurred (for instance whether the return was forced or truly voluntary, or if the ID documents simply expired).

On 22 July 2019, the Istanbul Governorate declared that all Syrians who were not registered in Istanbul had until 20 August to depart for other provinces. DGMM later extended this deadline until 30 October. The July announcement spread panic and occurred around the same time as reports of increased deportations to Syria. It is feared that similar events will take place in October. Istanbul is host to over 500,000 registered Syrians, as well as many thousands of others who are unregistered or registered in another province. Although no Syrian refugees are fully protected against refoulement, those who appear particularly vulnerable are those without ID documents, people outside their province of registration, and people working without permits. By the end of 2018 only about 68,000 such permits had been granted, so the latter category encompasses almost all working Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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