Do Not Force Refugees Back to the Countries They Left

henry ridgwell

Target: Selami Altınok, Minister of the Interior

Goal: Prevent the forcible return of refugees to their dangerous, conflict-ridden home countries.

Turkey has threatened over 150 Iraqi and Syrian refugees with a forced return to the countries from which they fled. This practice, known as refoulement, is prohibited by international human rights law and must not be carried out. Sign the petition and tell Turkey not to violate the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

One hundred and fifty Syrian refugees are currently being held in a camp near Düziçi, a Turkish town near the Syrian border. They have been told that they will not be permitted to leave the camp unless they are crossing back into Syria at one of two approved border crossings. The crossings are under the control of armed guards who have a record of human rights abuses. A smaller group of Iraqi refugees has been released from the camp, but on the condition that they return to Iraq within the next month.

The two groups of refugees were on a boat bound for Kos, Greece, when the Turkish coast guard fired several shots at the boat. The boat subsequently sank, resulting in the deaths of 22 of the more than 250 refugees.

Refugees and asylum-seekers are entitled to seek peace and safety from violence in their home countries, and forcibly returning them to the very conflicts they were attempting to flee is an act of immense betrayal. Furthermore, prohibiting refugees from leaving camps is tantamount to detention, which is also prohibited by human rights law except under very specific, case-by-case circumstances. Stand with Syrian and Iraqi refugees–tell Turkey not to return them to unsafe situations.


Dear Minister Altınok,

I am writing to express my concern at the treatment of more than 150 Syrian and Iraqi refugees currently in Turkey. Some are being detained, while others have already been told they must return to the very countries from which they fled. These actions fly in the face in international human rights protocol and must be amended immediately.

Amnesty International reports that a group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees were on a boat bound for Kos, Greece, when they were fired upon by the Turkish coast guard. Their boat sank, resulting in the deaths of 22 refugees, and 249 more were rescued and put in camps in Turkey. However, they refugees have been threatened with a return to their home countries. The Iraqi refugees have been released and told they must return to Iraq within the month, while the Syrian refugees remain confined to camps. Their only hope for leaving the camp is if they agree to return to Syria via border crossings that are known for their high instances of human rights violations.

Forcing refugees and asylum-seekers to return to the conflicts from which they fled is an immense act of betrayal and a violation of some of the most basic international human rights standards. I demand and end to threats of forced returns for refugees, and I demand that they be allowed the freedom to move on from the camps to the final destination of their choice.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Henry Ridgwell

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