Título:  EUROPE’S GATEKEEPER: UNLAWFUL DETENTION AND DEPORTATION OF REFUGEES FROM TURKEY
Índice AI:  EUR44302215
Referencia:  EUR44302215-27038
Editor:  Amnistía Internacional
Autor:  Amnistía Internacional
Fecha publicación:  20151216
Tema principal:  TURQUÍA
Descriptores:  Unión Europea · Asilo · Refugio · Migraciones · Devolución · Tortura y malos tratos
Resumen / Descripción:  El informe, titulado Europe’s Gatekeeper, documenta que, desde septiembre, y paralelamente a las conversaciones entre la UE y Turquía sobre migración, las autoridades turcas están deteniendo e introduciendo a decenas —y posiblemente cientos— de refugiados y solicitantes de asilo en autobuses que los trasladan a centros de detención aislados situados a más de 1.000 km, donde son recluidos en régimen de incomunicación. Algunos han denunciado que estuvieron varios días encadenados, los golpearon y los devolvieron a los países de los que habían huido.
Grado de seguridad:  Nivel 1
Subtipo de documentos:  Informe temático
Tipo de documento:  Documentación
Idioma:  Inglés
Enlace:  Unión Europea · Norte Africa
Texto:      

EUROPE’S GATEKEEPER UNLAWFUL DETENTION AND DEPORTATION OF REFUGEES FROM TURKEY

Europe’s Gatekeeper 1 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

INTRODUCTION

On 2 September 2015, pictures that shocked the world showed the lifeless body
of three year-old Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach. He was a Syrian refugee who
died after the boat in which his family had attempted to cross to the Greek
island of Kos capsized. Since January, hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers
and migrants had made the same journey, arriving in Greece, while 627 are known
to have died along the way.1 In mid- to late-2015, political pressure from
the EU on Turkey to halt the irregular crossings grew and negotiations developed
towards an agreement to combat irregular migration across their land and sea
borders.

At the same time, in Turkey, a less visible human rights crisis began to blight
the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing war and persecution in countries
such as Iraq and Syria. This briefing documents the plight of hundreds of refugees
and asylum-seekers apprehended near Turkey’s land or sea border with the EU,
who have been held in prolonged detention, denied all communication with the
outside world and in some cases forcibly returned to their home countries,
in violation of Turkish and international law.

This apparent policy shift is a new development. Up until September this year,
the main human rights concerns facing refugees in Turkey have not included
unlawful detention and deportation. Turkey hosts the largest refugee population
in the world,2 with over 2.2 million registered refugees from Syria3 and approximately
230,000 asylum-seekers from other countries.4 In November 2014 Amnesty International
reported that despite considerable resource allocation and positive policy
initiatives by the Turkish authorities, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees
were likely to be destitute or at serious risk of destitution, with inadequate
access to housing, education and healthcare.5 While further initiatives in
2015 have improved access to education and healthcare in particular, the needs
have also increased, with NGOs providing assistance to Syrian refugees reporting
a net increase in the number of people requesting their services. The situation
remains dire for many, with legal provisions to grant work permits not being

1 International Organization for Migration, “Mediterranean Update – Migration
Flows Europe: Arrivals and Fatalities,” 2 December 2015, available at http://missingmigrants.iom.int/sites/defaul
t/files/Mediterranean_Update_2_December.pdf,
p. 1. 2 UNHCR, Facts and Figures about Refugees, 2014, available at http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-
facts-and-figures.html. 3 UNHCR, Syria Refugee Regional Response: Turkey, available
at http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224. 4 European Commission,
Turkey: 2015 Report, November 2015, available at http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2015/20151110_
report_turkey.pdf,
p. 71. 5 Amnesty International, Struggling to Survive: Refugees from Syria
in Turkey, 20 November 2014, EUR 44/017/2014, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/EUR44/017/2014/en
/.

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2 Europe’s Gatekeeper Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

2applied in practice and little or no subsistence available to the 90% of Syrian
refugees who live outside government-run refugee camps. The economic situation
for other groups of refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey is similarly difficult
and the Law on Foreigners and International Protection that entered into force
in 2014 is rarely implemented in practice, with the result that very few asylum
claims are actually being processed.

The dire conditions for many refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey undoubtedly
contribute to their irregular onward movement to the EU. Refugees and asylum-seekers
who are unable to survive in Turkey, as well as those transiting through the
country from Africa and the Middle East, are moving irregularly to the EU in
increasingly large numbers.6 Between 1 January and 10 December 2015, more than
792,000 people had arrived to Greece irregularly by sea;7 with the arrivals
in the first 10 months of the year representing 1,300% more than during the
same period in 2014. In October 2015 alone, and despite dangerous sea conditions,
more than 150,000 people travelled from Turkey to Greece (compared to 8,500
in October 2014). Syrian refugees made up the majority of arrivals.8

In this context, the EU-Turkey migration deal signed at a special summit on
29 November 2015 and based on the Joint Action Plan of 15 October9 is fraught
with danger.10 On the one hand, Amnesty International has been told that the
majority of the 3 billion Euro committed by the EU will go towards improving
the humanitarian situation for refugees in Turkey, as outlined in the Joint
Action Plan.11 This is a long-overdue and much-needed acknowledgement of the
EU’s financial responsibility towards Syrian refugees, who are almost entirely
accommodated in Turkey and other states neighbouring Syria. On the other hand,
the migration deal fails to offer any credible safe and legal routes for people
in need of international protection to access EU territory for the purpose
of seeking asylum, the absence of which is a major driver of irregular migration.
Proposed cooperation between Turkey and EU member states to police the border
and prevent irregular crossings is likely to result in more people risking
their lives in attempts at longer and still more dangerous sea routes. As such,
this aspect of the

6 In 2014 UNHCR resettled 8,944 refugees from Turkey, including 284 Syrians,
an increase from 22 Syrian refugees who departed in 2013. See UNHCR, Projected
Global Resettlement Needs: 2016, July 2015, available at http://www.unhcr.org/558019729.html,
p. 54. 7 UNHCR, “Greece Data Snapshot,” 11 December 2015, available at http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/downlo
ad.php?id=262.
8 Frontex, “540 000 Migrants Arrive on Greek Islands in the First 10 Months
of 2015,” 10 November 2015, available at http://frontex.europa.eu/news/540-000-migrants-arrived-on-greek-islands-
in-the-first-
10-months-of-2015-4uH4FJ. 9 European Commission, EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan,
15 October 2015, available at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5860_en.htm.
10 Amnesty International, Fear and Fences: Europe’s Approach to Keep Refugees
at Bay, 17 November 2015, EUR 03/2544/2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur03/2544/2015/en/
,
p. 53-54. 11 Ankara interview with the EU Delegation to Turkey, 4 December
2015.

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Europe’s Gatekeeper 3 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

migration deal is the continuation of a failed EU policy which has seen the
land routes from Turkey to Bulgaria and Greece effectively closed.

This briefing examines the unlawful detention and deportation of refugees and
asylum-seekers in Turkey who had attempted to cross irregularly to the EU during
the period leading up to and after the signing of the migration deal. The document
makes a number of recommendations to the EU and Turkey, calling for an end
to these illegal practices, for past cases to be investigated, for victims
to be granted full reparations and for independent oversight to monitor the
migration deal’s implementation and compliance with international human rights
law and standards.

METHODOLOGY The briefing is based on research conducted by Amnesty International
in October, November and December 2015, including face-to-face and telephone
interviews with more than 50 refugees and asylum-seekers who had been detained
and some who had been deported from Turkey, and with their relatives.12 Researchers
conducted interviews in Ankara, Bursa, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Osmaniye
and Sanliurfa. During the research Amnesty International also met with civil
society organizations, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Turkey’s General Directorate
of Migration Management, a representative of Turkey’s Prime Ministry’s Office,
and the EU Delegation to Turkey. Amnesty International requested access to
two detention facilities from where forcible returns were reported. The Turkish
authorities granted access to the Düziçi camp in Osmaniye province but not
to the Erzurum Removal Centre in Erzurum province.

DETENTION

According to consistent accounts by refugees and asylum-seekers, in September
2015 the Turkish authorities began apprehending some of those who attempted
to cross irregularly to the EU, and transporting them more than a thousand
kilometres by bus to isolated detention centres in the south or east of the
country. According to these accounts, people’s access to the outside world
was cut off, with mobile phones confiscated and visits by lawyers and family
members forbidden. Refugees and asylum-seekers said they were detained for
between several weeks and approximately two months, and were not given any
reasons for their detention. Some of those

12 Amnesty International conducted 47 face-to-face interviews, including with
22 people who had been detained in the Erzurum Removal Centre or relatives
of people who had been detained there, and 25 people who had been detained
in the Düziçi detention centre or their relatives. Ten of the detainees were
women, 33 were men and four were children.

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4 Europe’s Gatekeeper Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

4detained reported that they were physically ill -treated by officials. As
discussed below, the detention described to Amnesty International by refugees
and asylum-seekers violates Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international
law. It is not clear why some people apprehended were promptly released while
others, including families with young children, were subjected to these illegal
practices.

There is also evidence that the detentions (and deportations, discussed further
below) documented in this report may be just the tip of the iceberg. When detainees
are denied all communications with the outside world, discovering their cases
is very difficult. Many of the cases documented in the briefing were discovered
by chance, reported by detainees or their relatives who happened to have Amnesty
International’s contact information, via mobile phones concealed from the detaining
authorities. On one occasion, a group of detainees managed to contact Amnesty
International but then vanished. On 26 November 2015 Amnesty International
received information that a group of more than 60 Kurdish asylum-seekers from
Iran and Iraq were being detained and threatened with deportation. The group
was split up, with a number of people being transferred to a detention facility
on Kocaeli in western Turkey, according to GPS coordinates that the asylum-seekers
or their family members sent to Amnesty International researchers. A text message
sent to a researcher at 2:30 a.m. on 27 November reading “please help us” was
the last contact received from the group. The phones were then switched off
and it was impossible to ascertain whether the group continued to be detained
at the site or had been released, transferred to another detention centre,
or deported.

All of the detained refugees told Amnesty International that they had been
apprehended in one of the western border provinces, such as Edirne or Mugla.
Most of them said that they were attempting or intending to cross irregularly
to the EU, including those who were part of a group of approximately 112 people
who were present at a protest near Edirne and – according to accounts received
by Amnesty International – detained on 24 September. Some people, however,
appear to have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time; Amnesty International
received reports that two groups of Syrian detainees had been holidaying in
Bodrum when they were apprehended by the authorities; one family had been eating
dinner at a seaside restaurant.13

After being apprehended, refugees and asylum-seekers said they were detained
locally, before being taken more than a thousand kilometres by bus to Düziçi
camp in Osmaniye province or the Erzurum Removal Centre in Erzurum province.
Amnesty International researchers have seen two video clips of distressed families
on a bus, while uniformed police stand outside,

13 Gaziantep interview with civil society organization, 1 December 2015.

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Europe’s Gatekeeper 5 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

purportedly during a transfer to the Düziçi camp in September 2015. A number
of people speaking Arabic can be heard refusing to continue the bus journey,
encouraging others to get off the bus, saying “Get off – what are they going
to do to us?,” while other people say “Where is the UN?” and “We want to die
in the sea.”14

People transferred were not informed of their destination, or they were misinformed
– many reported being told they were being taken to the EU or Istanbul. Although
the authorities confiscated phones, some people managed to conceal theirs and
were able to share their location from the GPS device on their smart phones
with family members, who later attempted to contact them. Amnesty International
was forwarded the coordinates of these locations, which subsequently enabled
researchers to identify the detention facilities as those in Düziçi and Erzurum.
Other refugees and asylum-seekers used road signs seen while they were bussed
from one detention centre to another to try to determine their location, often
inaccurately. According to refugees and asylum-seekers who had been detained,
it took many days for them to reach the final detention centre, as they were
detained in a number of places en route and because the detention centres in
southern and eastern Turkey are more than 1,000 km from where they were apprehended
near the western coast.

Refugees and asylum-seekers told Amnesty International that after they arrived
in Düziçi or Erzurum, they were detained for periods between several weeks
and approximately two months. In both facilities, interviewees told Amnesty
International that there were hundreds of other detainees from source countries
for refugees, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria.

Despite the restrictions imposed on them by the detaining authorities (which
are discussed further below), refugees and asylum-seekers managed to provide
a wealth of supporting evidence to indicate the fact and location of their
detention. For instance, a Syrian refugee showed Amnesty International pictures
from inside the Düziçi camp with a phone that she said she was able to hide
from the authorities. Researchers have also been shown a photo of a blue plastic
tag saying “Erzurum GGM” on what appears to be a mattress; this could be an
abbreviation for Erzurum Geri Gönderme Merkezi, which means Erzurum Removal
Centre.

ARBITRARY DETENTION The detention described by dozens of refugees and asylum-seekers
to Amnesty International was arbitrary, and therefore unlawful. For detention
– including immigration detention15 – to not be arbitrary, it must be

14 Videos sent to Amnesty International by former Düziçi detainee on 23 November
2015. 15 UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 35, Article 9 (Liberty
and Security of Person), Index: EUR 44/3022/2015 Amnesty International December
2015

6 Europe’s Gatekeeper Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

6prescribed by law , necessary in the specific circumstances and proportionate
to the legitimate aim pursued.16 Under Turkish law, non- Syrian foreign nationals
may be held in administrative detention in certain circumstances, namely during
the assessment of their asylum claims or pending their deportation.17 However,
there is no clear basis in Turkish law for the administrative detention of
Syrian refugees, who are awarded Temporary Protection Status on a group basis
and therefore do not make individual asylum claims that need to be assessed,
and who cannot be deported to Syria because of the continuing conflict.

In any case, for detention not to be arbitrary the detainees must also be informed
why they are being deprived of their liberty.18 Of the dozens of asylum-seekers
interviewed by Amnesty International, no one had been provided with any reasons
for their detention. The Turkish authorities variously submitted to Amnesty
International that refugees and asylum- seekers may be held in administrative
detention on grounds of “security” and because they “had committed crimes,”
but without providing references to law.19 Of all the refugees and asylum-seekers
Amnesty International interviewed, the organization could only establish the
grounds of detention for one group of three people. Deportation orders they
had been handed showed that the refugees from Syria had been detained pending
their deportation.20

INCOMMUNICADO DETENTION Refugees and asylum-seekers told Amnesty International
that while being detained in Düziçi and Erzurum, they were cut off from the
outside world, with all phones confiscated and visits from lawyers and family
members denied. While a number of detainees were able to clandestinely contact
their relatives on hidden phones, the regime in place for the refugees and
asylum-seekers amounts to incommunicado detention. This violates international
law as well as Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection, which
stipulates that family members and lawyers must be given access to detainees.21

A lawyer was denied access to three refugees at Istanbul’s Kumkapi Removal
Centre on 2 October, and on 16 October another lawyer was denied

16 December 2014, CCPR/C/GC/35, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/553e0f984.html.
16 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 6 December 1966, Art.
9(1). 17 Law on Foreigners and International Protection, Arts. 57, 68. Additionally,
under international law, any custodial or non-custodial measure restricting
the right to liberty of asylum-seekers and refugees must be exceptional and
based on a case-by-case assessment of the personal situation of the individual
concerned. 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 6 December
1966, Art. 9(2). 19 Ankara interviews with the General Directorate of Migration
Management and the Prime Ministry’s Office, 4 December 2015. 20 Deportation
orders seen by Amnesty International. 21 Arts. 59(1)(b), 68(8).

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Europe’s Gatekeeper 7 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

access to the same men, who had been transferred to the Erzurum Removal Centre.22
In other cases, refugees and asylum-seekers who asked to see a lawyer were
not allowed to do so. A 43-year old man from Afrin in Syria, who had been deported
in November and returned to Turkey, explained to Amnesty International that
after asking to consult a lawyer he was told by Erzurum authorities that Turkish
law did not allow this.23 A 35-year old woman from Aleppo in Syria, who had
also returned to Turkey following her deportation, said that in the Aydin Removal
Centre in western Turkey she asked to call a lawyer, but the police told her
that she did not have the right to do so.24

There is only one case known to Amnesty International of access being grated
to a person detained at Düziçi or Erzurum after being apprehended from the
western border region. One Syrian man told Amnesty International that he was
eventually permitted to meet for a few minutes with his wife who was detained
in Düziçi after following the vehicle that transferred her to the facility
and being denied permission to speak to her for a week.25

Three different families independently told Amnesty International that they
travelled across the country to Erzurum, where the authorities either denied
that their family members were there, or refused to say whether or not they
were present. A 30-year old woman from Damascus who tried to visit her brother
in Erzurum Removal Centre told Amnesty International that after she and her
mother refused to leave the entrance to the centre, the authorities threatened
to detain them as well.26 A Syrian man whose daughter informed him via the
covert use of a phone that she was in Erzurum Removal Centre, took a 23-hour
bus journey to see her; he said that when he arrived, the authorities told
him: “We can’t say she’s here and we can’t say she’s not here.” They would
not allow him to give her a jacket that he had brought her because she was
cold.27

ILL-TREATMENT IN DETENTION Amnesty International collected credible evidence
of three cases of ill- treatment in places of detention, in addition to anecdotal
reports (which could not be independently verified) suggesting more widespread
abuse.

Of the three, one Syrian man, who contacted Amnesty International from the
detention place he had been transferred to after Erzurum,28 said he had

22 Istanbul interview with male refugee, 23 November 2015; Amnesty International,
Urgent Action: Concern Grows for Detained Refugees, EUR 44/2709/2015, 21 October
2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur44/2709/2015/en/.
23 Istanbul interview with male refugee, 25 November 2015. 24 Hatay interview
with female refugee, 2 December 2015. 25 London interview by phone with husband
of refugee, 13 November 2015. 26 Sanliurfa interview with female refugee, 30
November 2015. 27 Hatay interview with father of refugee, 2 December 2015.
28 Amnesty International knows his location but is keeping this information
confidential for his own Index: EUR 44/3022/2015 Amnesty International December
2015

8 Europe’s Gatekeeper Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

8been beaten by several police officers in the Edirne Removal Centre.29 Another
person interviewed separately said she heard him and 10 other men being beaten
from another room and subsequently saw their injuries.30 A 19-year old refugee
said that he acted as the interpreter for the man, when his injuries were recorded
upon his arrival in Erzurum Removal Centre.31 Amnesty International has been
given a photograph of a man whose entire left leg is covered in bruises, who
refugees say is the person who called Amnesty International from detention.32

A 40-year old Syrian man said that in Erzurum Removal Centre he was confined
to a room alone for seven days at some point between late September and late
November, with his hands and feet bound together. He told researchers: “When
they put a chain over your hands and legs, you feel like a slave, like you
are not a human being.” Pointing to a label his friend had brought from Erzurum
Removal Centre indicating the 85% funding by the EU, he said: “Under this label,
we have been tortured.”33

Three women – two Syrian and one Moroccan – told Amnesty International that
upon arrival at the Erzurum Removal Centre, all the women were strip- searched.
They said that when they initially refused to remove their clothing, the six
female guards laughed at them and said: “You will stay here until you do.”34
A few weeks after her release, one of the women told Amnesty International
that she has nightmares which prevent her from sleeping.35

The use of EU funds for equipment in migration detention facilities

Amnesty International was shown labels as well as labelled items taken from
the Erzurum Removal Centre by several different groups of detainees – which
say “Instrument for Pre-Accession Programme: EU Contribution 85%, National
Contribution 15%.” According to the detainees, these labels were affixed to
a variety of objects in the centre, including beds, towels, and cupboards.
The Europe Aid code on the label (135004/IH/SUP/TR) matches the code on an
EU Call for Proposals for removal centres in Turkey dating back to 2013.36

safety. 29 Istanbul interview by phone with male refugee, 30 November 2015.
30 Hatay interview with female refugee, 2 December 2015. 31 Istanbul interview
with male refugee, 25 November 2015. 32 Sanliurfa interview with two male refugees,
30 November 2015. 33 Istanbul interview with male refugee, 25 November 2015.
34 Istanbul interview with two female refugees, 25 November 2015; Hatay interview
with female refugee, 2 December 2015. 35 Istanbul interview with female refugee,
10 December 2015. 36 See for instance European Commission, “Supply of Equipment
for Establishment of Reception and Removal Centres (Phase II),” 29 August 2013,
available at https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online- services/index.cfm?ADSSChck=1415585376922&do=publi.de
tPUB&AOREF=135004&userlanguage=en

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Europe’s Gatekeeper 9 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from Turkey

The EU is currently seeking to expand its funding of Turkey’s centres for refugees
and migrants. The Draft Action Plan from 6 October 2015 stated that “priority
will be given to the opening of the six refugee reception centres built with
EU co-funding.”37 The final Action Plan from 15 October made no mention of
these centres.38 In December, however, the EU Delegation to Turkey confirmed
that the EU and Turkey have agreed to open these as detention centres.39

It is imperative that it establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms
of conditions and practices in such centres, to ensure their human rights compliance.
Continued funding must be conditional on such compliance.

DETENTION AT THE DÜZIÇI FACILITY When researchers visited Düziçi camp on 2
December 2015, official statistics indicated that 377 Syrian refugees were
at the facility that day, of a total of nearly 1,500 persons held there since
it opened in September 2015. The Turkish authorities do not regard Düziçi camp
as a place of detention but rather an accommodation centre. They told Amnesty
International that the people who were currently “accommodated” were those
who were “homeless or engaged in begging.”40 They also acknowledged that the
camp was initially used in September 2015 to accommodate refugees and asylum-seekers
who had “threatened public order” by attempting irregular crossings to Greece.41
However, officials confirmed that refugees and asylum-seekers were brought
to the camp on the basis of a decision by the authorities, rather than of their
own will, and were not permitted to leave the camp making it a de facto place
of detention. The authorities told Amnesty International that persons held
at the camp would be released if they could demonstrate that they had accommodation
and the means to maintain themselves, or if they agreed to voluntarily return
to Syria. Given that Syrian refugees are not provided with work permits, providing
evidence of an income is virtually impossible. This makes return to Syria the
only viable option for leaving the facility; as discussed further below, this
would violate Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law. Officials
at the facility further submitted to Amnesty International that Syrian refugees
were happy to be accommodated there, but their own statistics show that 30
people had escaped (“firar”)

37 European Commission, Draft Action Plan: Stepping up EU-Turkey Cooperation
on Support of Refugees and Migration Management in View of the Situation in
Syrian and Iraq, 6 October 2015, available at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5777_en.htm.
38 European Commission, EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan, 15 October 2015, available
at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5860_en.htm. 39 Ankara interview
with EU Delegation to Turkey, 4 December 2015. 40 Düziçi interview with facility
officials, 2 December 2015. 41 Düziçi interview with facility officials, 2
December 2015; Ankara interview with the Prime Ministry’s Office, 4 December
2015.

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Turkey

10over the high walls and barbed wire since September 2015. 42 Amnesty International
was not permitted to interview people at the detention centre without the presence
of officials, but during the visit one detainee asked Amnesty International
researchers: “Is this a prison? Are we in a prison or a camp? We want to leave
to work, but we can’t.”43

DEPORTATION

According to credible and consistent accounts provided to Amnesty International,
many of the cases of unlawful detention were followed by the authorities forcibly
returning refugees and asylum-seekers to Syria and Iraq. Both domestic and
international law prohibit the deportation of people to a place where they
would be at real risk of serious human rights violations. This principle –
non-refoulement – can be breached in several ways, including directly through
forcible returns to the country of origin, or indirectly when pressure is exerted
on refugees to return to a place where their lives or freedoms are at risk
– for instance through the threat of indefinite detention.

Amnesty International’s research shows that in recent months, the Turkish authorities
have deported more than a hundred people to a risk of serious human rights
violations in Syria and Iraq. Information that could not be independently verified
suggested that the number of forced returns during this period was far higher
and also included returns to Afghanistan.

Amnesty International spoke with two Syrian refugees via telephone in Syria,
shortly after they said they had been bussed from Erzurum Removal Centre to
the Cilvegözü/Bab Al Hawa border gate in Hatay province.44 About a week later,
after they had crossed back to Turkey irregularly, one of these two people
showed Amnesty International his passport with a Cilvegözü/Hatay province exit
stamp dated 18 November 2015. Researchers also interviewed five Syrian refugees
who had returned to Turkey irregularly after being deported to Syria from Erzurum.
According to their consistent accounts, there were five sets of deportations
from the Erzurum Removal Centre, starting on the evening of 17 November, and
continuing until 20 November, with a total of about 130 people being deported.45
Researchers also spoke with an Iraqi asylum-seeker shortly after he had returned
from Düziçi to

42 Düziçi Geçici Barinma Merkezi, “Günlük Genel Raporu,” 2 December 2015. 43
Düziçi visit, 2 December 2015. 44 Istanbul interview by phone with one male
refugee and one female refugee, 20 November 2015. 45 Istanbul interview with
two male and one female refugees, 25 November 2015; Sanliurfa interview with
two male refugees, 30 November 2015; Hatay interview with female refugee, 2
December 2015.

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Europe’s Gatekeeper 11 Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from
Turkey

Baghdad, where he was in hiding and fearing for his life.46

According to the accounts given to Amnesty International, the authorities used
varying degrees of coercion to pressure refugees and asylum-seekers to agree
to “voluntary” returns. The account of a 23-year old Syrian woman from Hama
was typical of what refugees told Amnesty International; while being detained
in Düziçi, the authorities told her: “Go back to Syria or stay in jail; these
are your options.”47 A Syrian woman from Idlib who was detained in Düziçi with
her four children (aged 12, 10, 8 and 3), said she was ordered to sign a voluntary
return agreement in Turkish, which she could not understand. According to her
the authorities said: “We will not translate it. If you refuse to sign, you
must stay here.”48 A 26-year old Syrian woman explained that some detainees
in Erzurum Removal Centre were physically forced to put their fingerprints
to a document.49 A 23-year old Syrian man said that he was part of a group
in Erzurum in which a three- year old child was forced to provide his fingerprints
as evidence of his consent to return to Syria.50

The people who were deported to Syria from Erzurum Removal Centre said that
the Turkish authorities delivered them directly to the Cilvegözü/Bab Al Hawa
border crossing in Hatay province, controlled on the Syrian side by the Ahrar
al Sham armed group. Whereas a 26-year old Syrian woman from Qamishlo said
she was with about 20 people who were all released after being questioned,51
a 23-year old Syrian man in a different group told Amnesty International that
he saw four men who had been deported from Turkey being blindfolded by members
of Ahrar al Sham and put in a vehicle; he does not know what happened to them.
He said that mutual friends told him about two other people who had been deported
from Erzurum Removal Centre, and were trying to travel from Idlib to Aleppo,
when they were apprehended and then imprisoned by the Jabhat al Nusra armed
group, Al Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.52

All of the dozens of asylum-seekers who spoke with Amnesty International had
been denied their requests for a copy of the document they had signed – or
even to take a photo of it with their camera phones (which had been returned
to them as they were being released). Most did not understand the contents
of the document, which the authorities sometimes covered with a paper when
demanding signatures. Those who did see the document said

46 Amnesty International, Urgent Action: Refugees at Risk of Forcible Return
to Syria, EUR 44/2521/2015, 24 September 2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/EUR44/2521/2015/
en/.
47 Bursa interview with female refugee, 24 November 2015. 48 Istanbul interview
with female refugee, 26 November 2015. 49 Istanbul interview with female refugee,
25 November 2015. 50 Sanliurfa interview with male refugee, 30 November 2015.
51 Istanbul interview with female refugee, 25 November 2015. 52 Sanliurfa interview
with male refugee, 30 November 2015.

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12that it was in Turkish, except for one line in Arabic which read: “I return
to Syria of my own will.” Officials at the Düziçi detention centre provided
Amnesty International with a blank copy of a document that generally fits this
description, although the Arabic text read: “I need to return to the Syrian
Arab Republic.” It is unclear if officials used a standard document for these
release forms, or if local authorities produced their own forms.

Other detainees told Amnesty International that they were not deported but
instead required to sign a form upon their release, agreeing to leave the country
within a certain period of time, usually 30 days. In all of these cases as
well, everyone was denied copies of these forms. Should they not leave within
this time, if caught, they face being re-detained and their deportation being
enforced. A 23-year old Syrian man told Amnesty International that having been
released in these circumstances, he was going to take a boat to cross irregularly
to the EU after a few days; part of the reason for his departure was his fear
that the police would apprehend him and discover that he was supposed to be
in Syria.53

A woman who was detained for 22 days in Düziçi said that – although prior to
her detention she had registered as a Syrian under Temporary Protection in
Turkey – the uncertainty in her legal status following her detention prevents
her from taking her ill 3-year old daughter to a doctor, or registering her
three older children in school; she said that her 8-year old son tells her
every day: “Mum I want to go to school.” She told Amnesty International that
if she cannot positively clarify her legal status within a month, she will
return to Syria.54

CONCLUSION

The human rights violations documented in this briefing contrast with the generally
favourable, humanitarian approach of the Turkish authorities towards refugees
and asylum-seekers in the country. Given that they coincide with the opening
of negotiations around the Joint EU-Turkey Action Plan, it is difficult to
avoid the conclusion that Turkey’s unlawful treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers
caught attempting to leave irregularly has been triggered by the political
and logistical demands exerted upon them by the EU to stop hundreds of thousands
of people crossing a sea border with Greece of more than 700 km. The fact that
detention and deportation are exceptional does not make them excusable. Irrefutable
evidence shows that the Turkish authorities are detaining some of the most
vulnerable people in

53 Sanliurfa interview with male refugee, 30 November 2015. 54 Istanbul interview
with female refugee, 26 November 2015.

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their jurisdiction, including children, in a manner more akin to kidnapping
than a lawful detention regime. Forcibly returning refugees back to Syria and
Iraq is as unconscionable as it is unlawful under international and domestic
Turkish law.

The fact that these detentions and returns took place in the context of negotiations
and the signing of the EU-Turkey deal to combat irregular crossings, is chilling.
What the future will hold, given that the migration deal is now in force, is
unclear. What is clear is that the EU and Turkey have a joint responsibility
to ensure that any migration deal is implemented in a way that puts an end
to these illegal practices and fully respects the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers
and migrants in Turkey.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Amnesty International urges Turkey and the European Union to ensure that the
implementation of the migration deal respects the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers
and migrants in Turkey.

With this aim, the Turkish government should:

? Ensure that the detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants is only
resorted to when it is determined to be lawful, necessary in the specific circumstances
and proportionate to a legitimate purpose;

? Ensure that any decision to detain refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
is exceptional and based on an assessment of the individual’s particular circumstances;

? Ensure that refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants are promptly informed,
in a language they understand, of the reasons for their detention;

? Guarantee access to all places of detention by lawyers, family members, independent
doctors, independent human rights organizations and UNHCR;

? Guarantee detainees’ ability to make regular contact (including through telephone
or internet, where possible), and receive visits from lawyers, family members,
friends, as well as independent human rights organizations and UNHCR;

? Not return anyone to a place where they would be at risk of serious human
rights violations, or exert pressure on people to do so; and

? Ensure that all allegations of unlawful detention and deportation are Index:
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14 Europe’s Gatekeeper Unlawful Detention and Deportation of Refugees from
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14promptly and effectively investigated , that all those found to be responsible
are held to account and that the victims are granted full reparations.

The Turkish government and the EU should:

? Guarantee independent oversight of the implementation of the EU- Turkey Joint
Action Plan in order to ensure its compliance with international human rights
law and standards: the EU-Turkey High-Level Working Group on migration established
to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan should report regularly and
publicly on the human rights compliance of measures taken and the Working Group
should include various independent actors that can fulfil this role (such as
human rights institutions, parliamentarians, civil society and international
organizations);

? Establish an observatory mechanism for EU-funded detention facilities, designed
by independent international and local civil society organizations, who should
be given regular access to these facilities and the ability to oversee the
effective implementation of recommendations;

? The Commission should suspend all funding arrangements for equipment and
infrastructure in migration related detention facilities that are being used
to unlawfully detain migrants and asylum-seekers and facilitate their unlawful
deportation; and

? As a matter of urgency, undertake immediate and concrete actions to increase
resettlement places and other legal routes for refugees and asylum- seekers
in Turkey to reach the EU.

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