For Immediate Release
Turkey and Iran Must Act Now to Protect Refugees, Urges Amnesty International
Human Rights Organization Concerned For 24 Uzbekistani Refugees Whose Whereabouts Remain Unknown
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the illegal deportation of the 24 refugees, including children, from Van in eastern Turkey to Iran. The organization is concerned that there is no information regarding their whereabouts and well-being.
For the second time in one month Turkish law enforcement officials have expelled the same group of Uzbekistani refugees into Iranian territory in flagrant disregard for international standards protecting the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers
"This illegal deportation has gone ahead in violation of international standards which grant protection to recognized refugees and asylum seekers while their claims are determined. The government should make sure this kind of deportation does not happen again," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia program director at Amnesty International said.
On Saturday, October 11, the 24 Uzbekistani nationals are believed to have been rounded up by Turkish police in Van and taken to an unknown location. Despite the efforts of human rights organizations in Turkey throughout Saturday night and Sunday, it was not possible to secure their release. On Monday, October 13, the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) in Turkey confirmed that the group had been deported to Iran.
A month ago, on September 12, 21 of the 24 Uzbekistani refugees were forced into Iranian territory by Turkish law enforcement officials. During this first deportation, members of the group were allegedly beaten up and women and girls threatened with rape unless they left Turkey. The refugees were subsequently held hostage by an unnamed group in Iran which threatened to kill them. They were released after a week following the payment of a ransom of $5,000, allowing them to return irregularly to Turkey.
"After all that they have been through, these refugees returned to Turkey in the belief that they would be safe. Instead they are again in danger in Iran," added Duckworth.
"The Iranian authorities must undertake to ensure their safety in Iran. Furthermore, the authorities must not send them back to Uzbekistan where they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.