Two Moroccan nationals were mistakenly deported to war-torn Syria by Turkish authorities earlier this year after they attempted to illegally enter Europe through Turkey’s land border, the London-based Middle East Eye news website reported, citing the two Moroccans.
Azeddin Al-Remash and Nabil Rochdi were deported to the Syrian city of Azaz in January, despite repeatedly informing Turkish authorities that they were Moroccan nationals and had no connection to Syria.
Remash said he was arrested after he tried to cross into Greece and was subsequently sent to a deportation center in Edirne and later to the southern city of Adana.
“I informed Turkish authorities of my Moroccan citizenship and presented my papers. However, they insisted on sending me to Syria, disregarding my claims,” Remash said.
“They didn’t even provide an interpreter to us. Despite our efforts to communicate, they sent us to Syria against our will. I have no connection to Syria.”
Roshdi, the other Moroccan national, entered Turkey through İstanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport before he attempted to cross into Bulgaria, where he was apprehended by Turkish soldiers.
“Despite my repeated statements that I am not Syrian, they forcibly sent me to Syria,” he said.
“I informed them that I should be returned to Morocco, but my pleas were ignored. With no translators present, we struggled to contact Moroccan authorities,” he added.
Both men said they were also mistreated by Turkish officers during their detention.
Turkish officials told MEE that state institutions responsible for northern Syria were monitoring the situation and taking the necessary steps to ensure the safe return of Moroccan nationals to their homeland.
The officials spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
MEE reached out to Turkey’s Immigration Authority for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
According to the UN, Turkey hosts around 4 million refugees, 3.6 million of whom were forcibly displaced from Syria.
More than 500,000 Syrians are currently registered as living in Istanbul, while cities further south such as Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Hatay have each taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees.
In recent months Turkey has stepped up its deportation efforts after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to return 1 million Syrians to northern Syria.
Many of the individuals deported have claimed they were forced to sign “voluntary return” papers.
Although Turkey is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits returning refugees to a country where they may be at risk of harm or persecution, the country has an exemption by which it recognizes only European refugees, leaving Syrians residing in Turkey in uncertainty.