A Human Rights Watch report accuses Turkish guards of killing and injuring Syrian refugees

Turkish border guards shot and beat up Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers, the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch claimed in a report published on Tuesday.

The report, for which Human Rights Watch interviewed victims and witnesses, says that over the past two months, Turkish border guards killed five people, including a child, and seriously injuring 14 others.

“While senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch.

According to the report, the Turkish government affirms that it has an open-door policy for Syrian refugees, but the human rights group had reported as early as August 2015 that Turkey was pushing back asylum seekers. The report also says that Turkish border guards blocked thousands of Syrians who were fleeing their camp inside of Syria after it had been hit by artillery fire in mid-April.

Turkey is one of Europe’s main partners in tackling the worst refugee crisis since WW2, and is a focal point of the bloc’s current strategy. The EU struck a deal with Turkey — which has been dubbed the ‘pact of shame’ — to contain the refugees. The deal has been decried by human rights organisations, who have warned for months that the refugees’ safety cannot be guaranteed in Turkey.

The current €6 billion deal includes sending refugees who crossed the border after March 20 2016 back to Turkey, and sending migrants who are intercepted by coast guards in the Aegean Sea back to Turkey. The deal also includes speeding up talks for Turkey’s adherence to the EU and VISA-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens.

Turkish officials have threatened to call off the deal a number of times already, especially because Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to change the country’s anti-terrorism law, which has prompted the EU to try and find a new way to deal with the refugee crisis, should the deal falter.

The Turkish border guards are accused of a series of shootings and beatings during which three children aged three to nine were injured and one smuggler was beaten to death. Syrians living near the border also told Human Rights Watch that in the aftermath of the shootings and beatings, “Turkish border guards fired at them as they tried to recover bodies at the border wall.”

Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Turkish interior minister, urging the government to investigate the allegations.

Read the full Human Rights Report here.

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