This recent deportation of refugees in Van, a city in Turkey’s east, raises a number of concerns. As discussed below, it is the second illegal deportation of a group of Uzbek refugees to Iran in a period of one month.
The first deportation:
The first illegal deportation took place on September 12, 2008. On that date, officials in the Van Foreigners’ Police called in 25 Uzbek refugees, including women and children, promising that they would provide the group educational materials and food. Upon their arrival at the police station, however, the group was summarily deported to Iran. Twenty-two of the group had been recognized as “refugees” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the other two had cases pending with that agency. Amnesty International (AI) launched an “urgent action” appeal to the Turkish and Iranian authorities, and on September 19, 2008, AI’s Turkey Branch, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, the Human Rights Association, MAZLUMDER, the Association for Solidarity with Refugees and the Human Rights Agenda Association expressed their grave concern about the illegal deportation in a joint press statement.
In testimony subsequently provided by the refugees to the Van Bar Association, the Human Rights Association and MAZLUMDER, Turkish authorities beat them and confiscated their money and valuables before dumping them in a mountainous region on the border between Iran and Turkey. Immediately after, an unidentified group took them hostage and released them seven days later, after receiving a ransom. The group of refugees returned to Van, Turkey in an irregular manner on September 22, 2008 following a three-day journey. On September 29, 2008, the aforementioned organizations described the incident in a report.
The second incident:
On the evening of October 11, 2008, Van police rounded up the same group of Uzbek refugees and took them to an unknown place. Despite efforts of various human rights organizations throughout that night and the next day, the group was not released. On October 13, 2008, the UNHCR Turkey Branch Office confirmed that the group had been deported to Iran for the second time.
The concept of non-refoulement – that one should not be sent back to a country where one’s life or liberty is at risk – is a core principle of international refugee law. Turkey is under the obligation to uphold to this principle in conformity with customary law as well as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, as widely covered, on April 23, 2008, Turkish authorities forced 18 people to swim across a river on the border with Iraq, leading to the death of four, one of whom was a recognized refugee. We demand that these incidents which constitute clear breaches of refugee rights be investigated effectively, promptly, impartially and independently and results be made public. We also believe that the Turkish government should adopt necessary measures to prevent further similar incidents.
For detailed information, please contact:
Amnesty International Turkey – Mr. Volkan Görendağ: +90 533 270 02 64
Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Mr. Oktay Duran: +90 212 292 6842
MAZLUMDER – Mr. Halim Yılmaz (lawyer): +90 212 621 15 11
Human Rights Association – Mr. Cüneyt Caniş (lawyer): +90 432 215 20 80
Mülteci Der – Mr. Taner Kılıç (lawyer): +90 532 681 68 18
The Humanitarian Relief Foundation – Ms. Gülden Sönmez (lawyer): +90 212 631 21 21
Human Rights Agenda Association – Mr. Orçun Ulusoy (lawyer): +90 232 489 55 28