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Exclusive Enab Baladi: Syrian refugee recounts the story of his forced repatriation from Turkey 

Syrian refugees deported from the Turkish province of Şanlıurfa to Syria (Güzel Facebook page)

Syrian refugees deported from the Turkish province of Şanlıurfa to Syria (Güzel Facebook page)

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Turkey has been forcibly deporting Syrian refugees from the Turkish province of Şanlıurfa to the countryside of Aleppo in Syria without explaining the direct reason for their actions.

Mohammed Tohme, one of the deportees, told Enab Baladi on 25 November that the Turkish authorities had offered them a choice between a jail sentence of one year in Gaziantep or a forcible return to Syria.

On 15 November, Turkish police conducted an inspection campaign in places where Syrian refugees tend to congregate in Şanlıurfa city.

The campaign targeted cafes including Babel, Pasha, al-Nofara, and Rotana in the city center. About 20 young men were arrested. Most of them were working in these cafes and holding a temporary protection ID card (kimlik) registered in Şanlıurfa as well as having their families and children there settled in the city.

Tomeh added that the Syrian refugees had to sign documents written in Turkish and the police told them that they were not deportation forms but just “routine procedures” before going to the police stations.

The police did not ask whether they had a work permit or not, which contradicts the claims that the reason behind their detention and deportation was that Syrian refugees did not have a valid work permit.

Mohammed Tohme said that the Turkish authorities did not explain to them the reasons for their detention. The police offered them a choice between imprisonment and deportation, according to Tohme.

Tohme explained that the refugees were taken first to Harran camp in Şanlıurfa city, then to the province of Gaziantep. They were later transferred to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Syria, where they were released.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had earlier accused the Turkish authorities of detaining a number of refugees and forcing them to sign the so-called “voluntary return” documents.

Many Syrian refugees were coerced or misled when signing these forms.

HRW noted, in a report released on 27 July 2019, that Turkey is bound by the international customary law of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone to a place where they are at real risk of serious human rights violations.

Tohme pointed out that many detainees are still being held in the detention centers of Gaziantep. According to Tohme, only 14 young men chose to go back to Syria after signing “deportation forms.” Tohme believes that no one can afford to stay in prison wrongfully for one year.

He stressed that all those who entered Syria were not coerced by the Turkish authorities into going to specific areas inside Syria. He added that some of them went to Afrin and others to the cities of Azaz and al-Bab, in Aleppo countryside.

This is the first time that so many Syrian refugees have been deported from Şanlıurfa province to Syria.

Turkey has increased deportations of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in recent months. This comes on the heels of the decisions of the Ministry of Interior in Istanbul and other Turkish provinces, in mid-July 2019, to deport Syrian refugees who do not have the temporary protection identification document (granted by the Turkish authorities to Syrian refugees).

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