Turkey denies using force against Syrian refugees
REUTERS photoPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 11 denied accusations that Turkish border guards killed and injured asylum seekers trying to find refuge in Turkey.
His comments came a day after Human Rights Watch said Turkish border guards were shooting and beating Syrian refugees trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.
“We did not shut our doors to those who are coming. We did not use our security forces against them,” Erdoğan said, in apparent reference to the claims, reported Agence France-Presse.
He said Turkey believed closing doors to people who flee barrel bombs was tantamount to cruelty.
“We have opened our doors to them,” he added.
New York-based rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed on May 10 that Turkish border guards have in the past two months killed five Syrians who were trying to cross into Turkey and called on the country to investigate the reported use of excessive force by its soldiers, reported the Associated Press.
In a statement, HRW accused border guards of shooting and beating asylum-seekers and at least one smuggler. It said that five refugees - including a child - were killed and 14 others were wounded in March and April, basing the allegations on the accounts of victims, witnesses and Syrian locals interviewed by HRW.
“While senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them,” claimed Gerry Simpson, a senior refugee researcher at HRW, describing the situation as “appalling.”
However, a Turkish Interior Ministry official once again denied that the incidents cited by the group had occurred and insisted that the country, which is home to 2.7 million Syrian refugees, does not shoot at asylum-seekers. The official could not be named because of regulations which bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.
HRW also urged Turkey to reopen its border to all Syrian asylum-seekers, saying Turkish border guards blocked thousands of fleeing displaced Syrians after their camps near the Turkish border had been attacked on April 13 and 15.
In an exclusive interview with daily Hürriyet in February, HRW Director Kenneth Roth urged Turkey to resist “any coercive measures” against refugees.
“It should not be closing the Syrian border, it should not be pushing people back to Syria and it should certainly be preventing people from getting on boats and heading to Greece. The aim should be encouraging people to stay in Turkey, not forcing them to do so,” Roth said.