UNHCR deplores forced return of 135 Iraqis by Turkey

News Stories, 26 July 2007


GENEVA, 26 July (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Thursday expressed deep concern about reports the Turkish authorities have forcibly returned 135 Iraqis to their country, although some may have been seeking asylum.

Taking into consideration the current situation in Iraq, UNHCR said it is extremely concerned for their safety. No information is currently available on their whereabouts.

Last December, UNHCR issued an advisory recommending that countries should not forcibly return any Iraqi from central or southern Iraq until there was a substantial improvement in security and human rights in the country. It also said people should not be returned to the three Northern Governorates if they do not originate from there.

The 135 were apprehended in Urla near the city of Izmir earlier this month as part of a larger group of some 500 people most of them Iraqis, Palestinians, Sri Lankans and Afghans who were about to depart Turkey irregularly.

"UNHCR understands that some of the deported persons had made an asylum claim. If this is confirmed, the deportations would be a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugee or asylum seeker whose case has not yet been properly assessed, can be forcibly returned to a country where their life or liberty may be at risk," UNHCR said in a statement. "Refoulement is explicitly prohibited by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and it is also contrary to international customary law."

In addition to seeking urgent clarification from the government of Turkey on the events surrounding the deportation, and further information on the fate of the deportees, UNHCR said it has sought assurances that in the future people needing international protection will be treated in full respect of Turkey's international and national legal obligations.

At the same time, UNHCR requested that Turkey admit into the asylum procedure the claims of those in the remaining group who expressed fear to return to their country of origin. UNHCR said it was pleased that Turkey has agreed to conduct a joint screening exercise with UNHCR to identify those in the group who wish to apply for asylum.

On 18 December 2006, UNHCR issued an advisory on the international protection needs of Iraqis outside Iraq, which was shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey. UNHCR noted the overall situation in Iraq was characterized by generalized violence in which massive, targeted violations of human rights are prevalent.




UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

Muazzez Ersoy

Muazzez Ersoy

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
Germany: Refugees CrossingPlay video

Germany: Refugees Crossing

With a huge influx of migrants and refugees heading towards Germany, a bottleneck has appeared at the border with Austria, between Freilassing and Salzburg. Around 1500 people are in the camps on the Salzburg side, waiting for entry into Germany.
Turkey: Midyat refugeesPlay video

Turkey: Midyat refugees

Turkey is now the largest refugee-hosting country in the world with more than 2 million refugees on its soil. It has built a network of 24 camps to house more than a quarter of million refugees. One of those camp is Midyat.