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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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KHRP Condemns Fatal Expulsion of Syrian and Iranian Refugees by Turkey

Kurdish Human Rights Project is shocked and saddened at the recent deaths of four refugees following their forcible expulsion to Iraq by Turkish police.

The incident took place on Wednesday 23 April at an unpatrolled stretch of the Turco-Iraqi border, near the Habur (Silopi) border crossing in Şirnak province, south-east Turkey. According to reports received by KHRP, four men drowned after a group of 18 refugees was forced by the Turkish police to cross a fast-flowing river at Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq.

According to witnesses, the Turkish authorities had earlier attempted to forcibly deport 60 people of various nationalities to Iraq at an official border crossing. The Iraqi border authorities allowed 42 Iraqis to enter the country but refused to admit 18 Iranian and Syrian nationals. Turkish police then took the 18 people, including five Iranians whose refugee status had been recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to an area where a river runs along the border, and forced them to swim across. Four people, one of whom was Iranian, were swept away by the strong current and drowned. Their bodies could not be recovered. The reports also indicate that the surviving refugees are deeply traumatized by the experience.

KHRP recalls Refusing Refuge, its report on the treatment of refugees in Turkey, published in February 2007, which demonstrated that Turkey continues to apply an outdated “geographical limitation” to its obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This limitation means that Turkey only recognises its obligations under the Convention with regard to refugees from Europe. This is particularly problematic given Turkey’s geographical location, and means that non-European asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey face numerous problems with health, housing, and status, often existing in an administrative and legal limbo.

Catriona Vine, KHRP Legal Director, today stated: “Quite aside from its outdated “geographical limitation” to its obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Turkey continues to disregard its wider international obligations with regard to the basic human rights of refugees. The forcible herding of refugees across a dangerous border is not only in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, but is also in violation of a slew of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, not least the right to life, which is applicable to all people in Turkey, refugee or not. The deplorable treatment of these refugees, some of whose status had been certified by the UNHCR, is an unacceptable abuse of state authority and a display of utter disregard for international human rights law. KHRP calls for a full investigation into this incident and for Turkey to bring its refugee policies in line with accepted international standards”.