Human Rights Watch has criticized the conduct of Turkish security forces on the border with Syria who, it alleges, have been engaging in mass deportations of asylum seekers back to the conflict zone where Turkish forces themselves are now in active combat.
The organization says it interviewed a number of Syrians who claim to have been deported from posts along the border with the rebel-militant enclave of Idlib. HRW claims to have gathered evidence of at least 100 deportation instances between January in March, some of which involved groups of as many as 500 displaced persons.
READ MORE: Thousands of Syrians Leave Afrin for Gov't-Controlled Areas Amid Turkish Advance
One Syrian man interviewed about his alleged experiences in February 2018 said, "Each time they insulted the men, calling them "Syrian traitors." They forced some of them to collect firewood. Then they took all of us in military trucks to a basketball court at a security post near the Hatya border gate. There was also a big tent there. They put us all in the tent and kept us overnight. They didn't give us any food or water or let us go to a proper toilet."
The Turkish Government responded to HRW's accusations in a letter saying, "Syrians are accepted and taken under protection in Turkey and Syrians who have entered into Turkey somehow and demand protection are definitely not sent back and the reception and registration procedures are carried out. Syrians coming to Turkey are under no circumstances forced to go back to their own country; their registration is continuing and these foreigners can benefit from many rights and services in Turkey."
The Syrian army and affiliated forces engaged in an offensive from October to February in order to recapture the north-western province of Idlib from armed rebel groups that have held almost the entire area for two years.