Turkish security forces have shot and injured civilians, including children, who were attempting to flee war-ravaged Syria into Turkey, Amnesty International reported Friday. The New York-based human rights organization said Turkish authorities have closed their border, leaving thousands of civilians trapped in Syria and leading many to rely on illegal smugglers.
“Turkey’s highly selective practice is appalling — only severely injured people are allowed entry to seek medical treatment while everyone else fleeing the violence is left unprotected,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.
Thousands of people trapped near the border had fled increased fighting in Aleppo in recent months. Many are in dire condition and injured, so Syrian doctors — overwhelmed with the number of patients at a time many hospitals are no longer operational — have been sending them to the Syrian-Turkish border, hoping Turkey will grant them entry.
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Yet Turkish authorities accept only those with life-threatening injuries, according to the report. Doctors said those who try using smugglers to cross the border are frequently shot at. Hospitals in the city of Azaz, 20 miles from Aleppo, have received on average two cases per day of refugees injured while attempting to cross the border. A child of about 10 was shot in the head, doctors told Amnesty.
“It is clear that countries neighboring Syria, particularly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, are under incredible strain from the influx of refugees. However, Turkey must not flout its obligations under international law by turning away injured refugees,” Hassan said. “Turkey, with the support of the international community including the EU, must grant them immediate protection from the daily bombardment that is happening just a few kilometers away.”
A Turkish government official denied the report, adding that Turkey aids any individual in need of medical assistance. An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Turkey has treated nearly 700,000 Syrians since 2012 in the border province Kilis alone.
More than 2.6 million Syrian refugees already live in Turkey, and the country has grown increasingly entangled in the Syrian civil war. The conflict has produced an unprecedented refugee crisis, as more than half of the country has been displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Hospitals and other civilian structures have been targeted by extremist groups, the Syrian government and Russia.