Turkey violated rights of Syrian who was forced to return to Syria: ECtHR

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has faulted Turkey in the case of a Syrian national who was forced to return to Syria in 2018 despite having a valid residence permit.

The court announced its ruling regarding the application of Muhammad Fawzi Akkad, 25, who arrived in Turkey with his family in 2014 after fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Akkad spent one year in the Gaziantep refugee camp in southeastern Turkey before moving to İstanbul and being granted temporary protection status and issued an alien’s identity card.

The young Syrian was detained by Turkish gendarmes near the Evros River in June 2018 when trying to reach Greece, from where he would travel to Germany to reunite with his family, which had moved to Germany and been granted asylum there. Akkad was removed to Syria two days after his detention.

The ECtHR ruled unanimously that there had been two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights: (1) on account of the applicant’s removal to Syria, and (2) on account of the handcuffing of the applicant during his transfer from Edirne to Hatay province in southern Turkey, a violation of the Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken in conjunction with Article 3, on account of the applicant’s inability to challenge his removal to Syria as well as a violation of the Article 13 (right to liberty and security).

The violation of Article 13 concerns the fact that Akkad had been deprived of his liberty from the time of his arrest close to the Greek border until his removal to Syria. The court also noted that the legal safeguards provided for by domestic law in relation to the detention of persons facing expulsion had not been complied with.

Akkad’s father travelled to Germany in 2015, where he was granted refugee status. In 2017 the members of his family joined him there under a family reunification visa, but Akkad was not allowed to follow them, having reached the age of majority by then.

He was trying to leave Turkey illegally to make his way to Germany at the time of his detention.

Akkad wrote in his petition to the court that as soon as he crossed the border into Syria he was apprehended by two Al-Nusra militants and had been taken to a building, probably in Aleppo, where he had been interrogated. He stated that he had been beaten and had feared for his life. He was subsequently released on condition that he did not leave the city of Aleppo.

Akkad entered Turkey again in July 2018 from where he travelled to Germany, where he lodged an application for asylum. He petitioned the ECtHR in December 2018.

The court said Akkad had been subjected to forced and unlawful expulsion to Syria by the Turkish authorities under the guise of a “voluntary return.”

The court ordered Turkey to pay Akkad 9,750 euros in damages and 2,500 euros for costs and expenses.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrians — the largest number in any one country of Syrians displaced during the 11-year-old civil war.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has recently reached a boiling point in Turkey, fueled by the country’s economic woes. With unemployment high and the price of food and housing skyrocketing, many Turks have turned their frustration toward refugees, particularly the Syrians who fled the civil war that broke out in 2011.

Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.

Amid increasing public discontent in the country with the rising number of refugees, Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in May that his government was working on a new project to ensure the “voluntary” return home of 1 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Yeti

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has vowed to send Syrian refugees in Turkey back home in two years at the latest if his party comes to power.

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