Turkish border guards are shooting Syrian refugees fleeing war, says Human Rights Watch

Senior government official denies the accusations 

A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin
A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin

Turkish guards at the Syrian border have shot at Syrian asylum seekers who are attempting to cross into their country, Human Rights Watch have said.

Refugees who had succeeded in crossing to Turkey, using smuggling routes, made the claims and said that people had died due to border police firing shots.

A senior Turkish government official denied the report and said the country had taken 3.5 million refugees since the conflict started in 2011.

The official told Reuters: “There has been absolutely no case of civilians being fired upon at the border.”

Human Rights Watch said it had spoken to 16 Syrian refugees, 13 of whom said border guards had shot towards them as they tried to cross while still in Syria, killing 10 people, including one child, and injuring several more.

“Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse,” Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

“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.”

There were also claims that Turkish border police had abused asylum seekers and refused to provide refugees with medical treatment and instead returned them to Syria.

“Turkey’s generous hosting of large numbers of Syrians does not absolve it of its responsibility to help those seeking protection at its borders,” a Human Rights Watch statement said.

The accusations come as Turkish troops fighting against Kurdish groups suffered their deadliest day, with eight soldiers killed.

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