Turkey accused of illegal pushback at Iran border

Turkey accused of illegal pushback at Iran border
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Amnesty International accused the Iranian and Turkish security forces of using violence and illegally sending back Afghan refugees at their borders

A report by Amnesty International accused Turkey and Iran of repeatedly pushing back Afghans trying to cross their borders. 

The report said many incidents were documented where the security forces of two countries directly shot at women and children to prevent them from climbing the walls or crawling under the fences.

“Afghans who do manage to enter Iran or Turkey are routinely arbitrarily detained, and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment before being unlawfully and forcibly returned,” Amnesty International said on its web site. 

When the Taliban forces seized power in Afghanistan last year, many people who supported the the former regime such as government and security officials, or activists and human rights defenders felt trapped seeked to flee the country in fear of reprisals from the Islamic organization.

With the help of smugglers, many of the Afghan refugees manage to find their way to Turkey, if they can escape from Iran, Amnesty International said. 

“Amnesty International interviewed 24 people who had been pushed back from Turkey to Iran, some multiple times or with relatives, allowing the organisation to document 178 individual instances of forced return (124 involving men and women and 54 involving children). Of these, six people were pushed back from Turkey to Iran

and then from Iran to Afghanistan in a double refoulement,” the organization said. 

“The police were shooting from their tower on the mountain. They shot directly at us, not in the air… I witnessed a woman and two children who were injured. A two-year-old child was shot in the kidney, and a six-year-old child was shot in the hand. I was very scared. I was amazed I survived,” the report quoted one Afghan refugee who tried to cross the Turkish border as saying. 

In addition to the 178 unlawful returns, Amnesty International documented the unlawful deportations of seven men and three children by plane from Turkey to Afghanistan between mid-March and early May 2022. Turkish authorities have labeled deportations by plane as “voluntary returns”. Yet the interviewees told Amnesty International that they did not want to return and that the Turkish authorities did not make any assessment of the risks they would face once back in Afghanistan.