Iran and Turkey are preventing entry of Afghan refugees or forcibly returning them to face life-threatening risks under the Taliban regime, in violation of international law, Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands fled Afghanistan in August 2021 after the US left the country in a chaotic military pullout, allowing the hardline Taliban to retake control.
But while many who assisted US forces in particular were airlifted out, the vast majority have had to flee by land, in particular towards Iran and eventually Turkey.
Many are poor and lack passports or other valid travel documents, making them especially vulnerable to border police who use threats or outright violence to keep them out or push them back, Amnesty said.
“Iranian and Turkish security forces have unlawfully used firearms against Afghans trying to cross the border irregularly as a deterrent and a pushback method, sometimes resulting in deaths or injuries,” the report said.
Amnesty said it based its findings on interviews with dozens of Afghans, including 74 who were forcibly returned, sometimes with children or other family members.
The NGO cited numerous cases of “unlawful killings, pushbacks by shooting and other unlawful returns, arbitrary detention, and torture and other ill-treatment of Afghans at the hands of both Iranian and Turkish officials.”
In particular, it documented killings of 11 Afghans by Iranian security forces and three Afghans by Turkish forces over the past year.
Under international law, countries are obliged to ensure a right to seek asylum and the principle of non-refoulement, or the forced return of refugees to countries where they would face persecution or other human rights violations.
“It is Amnesty International's position, in line with UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], that no Afghan should be returned, because of the risk of serious human rights violations they could face in Afghanistan,” it said.
It also called on the international community to provide aid to countries supporting Afghan refugees, and for Europe, the US and Canada to step up efforts to facilitate the exit of Afghans at risk of being targeted by the Taliban.