Turkey: teenage asylum seeker dies, others at risk of return

Imagine fleeing your home and your country. Leaving behind everything that you know, hoping to find some safety elsewhere. Then, imagine that instead of safety you are detained, and told you will be returned to your country, without anyone properly considering your story. And then you face abuse and assault from the authorities you had hoped would protect you. Now imagine going through all of this aged just 17.

This was the tragic situation for Lutfillah Tadjik in May this year. The 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker died in Turkey after being detained for removal, and allegedly assaulted by a police officer.

Detained and assaulted

On 16 May Lutfillah Tadjik was among 21 people detained in Turkey for having entered the country irregularly. On 23 May he was transferred to the Van Returns Centre to be deported on the grounds that he was an 'irregular migrant', following an administrative decision by the Migration General Directorate of the Ministry of Interior.  He declared his status as a child and on 26 May he was taken, with six others (MR, SH, MN, AR, HA and VP), to the Van Children and Youth Centre where they were to be detained until their removal.

On 27 May they were taken to the Van Returns Centre for age determination and a health check. During these procedures, a police officer allegedly assaulted Lutfillah Tadjik by slapping and punching him in the face, stating that Tadjik had lied about his age. Following the assault, Lutfillah Tadjik fell unconscious. He was taken to Van Regional Training and Research Hospital, where he died on 31 May.

Risk of return

According to the lawyer following the case, witness statements have been taken from the other six Afghans (one of whom was later found to be 22 years old). However, all 6 are now at risk of being returned to Afghanistan, without having access to the refugee status determination procedure to make proper decisions on their asylum claims, and before the investigation into Lutfillah Tadjik's death has been completed.

International Law prohibits the expulsion or return (refoulement) of a refugee where their life or freedom is threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. States who are party to the Refugee Convention must carry out a refugee status determination to ensre no one in need of international protection is refouled.

Take action

We are asking you to write to the authorities urging them to thoroughly investigate Lutfillah Tadjik's ill-treatment and death, not to remove any witnesses to the assault, and not to return any of the Afghan detainees without properly and fairly considering their asylum claims.

For more information and further guidance on what to put in your letter, have a look at the attached case file, below.

Please write before 5th August 2014 to:

Mehmet Kaya
Van Cumhuriyet Başsavcısı
Cumhuriyet Cad.

Hükümet Konağı
65100 VAN
Fax: +90 (0) 432 212 04 89
or +90 (0) 432 215 20 07
Email: vancbs@adalet.gov.tr
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor

Mr. Efkan Ala
İçişleri Bakanlığıi
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 (0) 312 418 17 95
Email: ozelkalem@icisleri.gov.tr
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please send copies of your letters to:

Mr. Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlığı
06659 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: 0090 (0)312 419 33 70
Email: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr


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