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Turkey human rights body files lawsuit against deportation centre after 'Syria abuses'

Turkey's national human rights body has filed a lawsuit against a government-run deportation centre over the alleged mistreatment of refugees, the organisation announced on Tuesday.

Enab Baladi first reported that the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TIHEK) had found abuses at the deportation centre following a surprise inspection visit at the location in Gaziantep, southern Turkey.

Up to four "foreigners" of unspecified nationalities had been abused by two guards in the centre.

The two staff members in question were soon fired after video footage emerged showing them inflicting "short-term physical violence" on detainees.

TIHEK filed a criminal lawsuit with the Gaziantep Public Prosecutor's Office about possible violations of human rights.

Many of those passing through these Gaziantep centres are Syrians - the last stop before being deported back to Syria.

According to Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), the Turkish government accelerated its arrests and refoulments of Syrian refugees in 2022.

The STJ said that dozens of these refugees were deported “arbitrarily and illegally,” despite them holding valid residency papers.

Since 2019, Turkey has forced Syrian refugees to return to Syria. Refugees have reported being forced to sign papers in Turkish, ostensibly meant to indicate that their returns were voluntary.

Syrian refugees have become a domestic hot topic in Turkey in recent years, with the Turkish opposition party saying it would deport Syrians en-masse if elected.

Hate speech and violence against Syrians in Turkey have also been on the rise, particularly after the country's economic downturn last year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to create a "safe zone" in northern Syria to house Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.

Human rights monitors have warned that conditions in Syria - even in the Turkish or Kurdish-controlled north - are not safe for refugee returns. Returnees have faced violence and arbitrary arrest at the hands of local authorities.

In June, detainees at one of the deportation centres staged a riot, causing fires to break out. Refugees have reportedly protested their treatment at there.

Turkey has hosted up to 3.7 million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian revolution and subsequent civil war in 2011. This is the highest amount of Syrian refugees hosted out of any country in the world.

The New Arab
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