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Human Rights Advocates Report Turkish Border Guards Are Killing Syrian Refugees

Turkish soldiers take position on a road near Suruc on the border with Syria.

CREDIT: AP/Emrah Gurel.

Turkish border guards are killing and wounding Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Turkey, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“During March and April 2016, Turkish border guards used violence against Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers, killing five people, including a child, and seriously injuring 14 others, according to victims, witnesses and Syrian locals interviewed by Human Rights Watch,” the report read. “Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Ministry maintains the country has an ‘open-door policy’ for Syrian refugees, despite building a new border wall.”

This discrepancy between words and actions was further noted by researchers at 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,” Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher. “Firing at traumatized men, women and children fleeing fighting and indiscriminate warfare is truly appalling.”

Back in April, Human Rights Watch reported that the border guards were enforcing the country’s one-year-old border closure and had shot at Syrians escaping advances by ISIS. The border guards blocked thousands of fleeing refugees after their camps were hit by artillery fire in mid-April.

“Six of the incidents Syrian witnesses described took place near the Khurbat al-Juz-Guvecci border crossing, about 50 kilometers south of the Turkish city of Antakya,” the Human Rights Watch report read. “The seventh happened near the Syrian border town of al-Duriya. Seven of the injured people said they had briefly stayed in the Salaheddin camp for displaced persons in the village of Khurbat al-Juz, overlooking the newly erected Turkish border wall nearby. Most of them, and others who traveled straight to the border, said they had recently fled fighting in and around Aleppo.”

The European Union also recently shut its borders to refugees. The EU signed a migration deal in March to stop refugee flow into Europe, giving 6 billion pounds in aid to help Syrians in Turkey.

But the money may not be enough.

“The EU shouldn’t just stand by and watch as Turkey uses live ammunition and rifle butts to stem the refugee flow,” HRW’s Simpson continued on to say in the report. “EU officials should recognize that their red light for refugees to enter the EU gives Turkey a green light to close its border, exacting a heavy price on war-ravaged asylum seekers with nowhere else to go.”

Alexandra Kilpatrick is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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