Turkey denies claims it is shooting Syrian refugees at border

Turkey denies claims it is shooting Syrian refugees at border
Turkish authorities have denied reports that Syrian refugees are being shot at and summarily returned to Syria at the Turkish border, as thousands flee increased fighting in Idlib and Afrin
2 min read
04 February, 2018
Some witnesses reported ten refugees had been shot and killed at the border [Getty]
A senior Turkish government has denied reports that its border guards are shooting indiscriminately at fleeing Syrian refugees, it was reported on Saturday.

"There has been absolutely no case of civilians being fired upon at the border." 
The official told Reuters, and reiterated that Turkey had taken in 3.5 million refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

The statements come shortly after a Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a damning report on the treatment of Syrian asylum seekers at the Turkish border, with guards reportedly shooting at refugees, killing ten people including one child, according to witness testimonies.

The guards also detained asylum seekers, many of whom were beated and denied critical medical treatment, before being sent summarily back into Syria.

"Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"As fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaces thousands more, the number of Syrians trapped along the border willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey is only likely to increase."

Record numbers of Syrian families have been displaced in recent weeks due to increased fighting in northern Syria, as scores have been killed in Russian-led airstrikes on civilian targets such as hospitals and market places.

HRW warned that Syria remained too dangerous for civilians to be sent back, particularly after Turkey opened up a new front in the conflict last month with a cross-border assault on Kurdish militia in the Afrin enclave.

"Conditions in Syria are not safe for refugee returns," Fakih said.

"With hostilities in Afrin contributing to the growing displacement crisis in the country, Turkey should allow the thousands of desperate Syrians seeking refuge to cross the border."

Agencies contributed to this report.