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Syrian refugee 'shot dead by border guard' after deportation from Turkey

Hisham Mustafa was allegedly deported last month despite having the temporary protection status [Twitter]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2019

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Activists say Syrian refugee Hisham Mustafa was shot dead attempting to cross back into Turkey to see his family, just weeks after he was reportedly deported.

A Syrian refugee deported from Turkey last month was shot dead by Turkish border guards as he attempted to return to his family in Istanbul, activists claimed.

There has been growing concern from human rights organisations and activists over the reported deportation of at least 400 Syrian refugees from Turkey to Syria's northwestern Idlib province last month.

Hisham Mustafa, reportedly deported from Turkey 25 days ago was shot dead by a Turkish gendarme while attempting to cross the border last week.

The allegations, initially reported by Syrian activists on social media, were later confirmed by a relative speaking to Zaman al-Wasl.

Mustafa had fled to Turkey from Aleppo in 2016 and made his home in the Bagcilar district of Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city.

His cousin Abu Qais told Zaman al-Wasl that Mustafa had registered for the temporary protection status - a legal designation Turkey gives to Syrian refugees in the absence of a formal refugee designation - in the city.

Such a designation should have protected Mustafa from deportation.

Despite being registered in Istanbul, Mustafa was taken from his home in Istanbul and deported to Idlib last month, according to Abu Qais.

As the sole breadwinner now separated from his family - which includes an infant just a few months old - Mustafa reportedly decided to attempt to cross the border in an attempt to return to Istanbul.

He was buried on Monday in the Idlib village of Azmarin, located less than a kilometre from the Turkish border, after being shot.

Shootings on the Turkish border have not been uncommon over the past few years.

Human Rights Watch has accused the gendarmerie of "indiscriminately" shooting at Syrian refugees, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims at least 422 Syrians have been shot dead attempting to cross over to Turkey since 2011. 

Turkey denies deportations

Amid growing racism and intolerance against Syrian refugees, the Istanbul governorate last month ordered Syrians who did not have temporary protection IDs registered in the city to leave by 20 August.

Thousands who lack the temporary protection status or have a temporary protection ID registered elsewhere in Turkey are said to live in Istanbul.

But Turkey denies having deported any Syrian refugees last month, even before that decree put a temporary halt to forced removals of Syrians from Istanbul.

Officials instead claim that anyone who has returned to Syria had done so voluntarily.

Officials also say that refugees detained in Turkey's largest city and other areas allegedly due to lacking an Istanbul-registered temporary protection ID were not deported but instead moved to the cities where they had registered for temporary protection status.

Those who did not hold temporary protection status were moved to refugee camps elsewhere in Turkey, officials claim.

Such a regime will continue from 20 August, according to the authorities.

But major news outlets including Reuters and the Washington Post have interviewed Syrians who say they were registered in Istanbul but deported to Idlib, and others who claim they were deported to the war-ravaged province rather than other cities in Turkey where they were registered.

Some allege they were deported after being coerced into signing a document that deemed their return "voluntary".

Rights organisations say the reports, if true, would constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, a key concept in international law.

Idlib is majority-controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radical groups and has since late April suffered an intensive aerial bombardment campaign that has left more than 700 dead and 300,000 displaced. 

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