Turkey denies claim that border guards killed, injured asylum seekers
ANKARA - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denied accusations that Turkish border guards killed and injured asylum seekers trying to find refuge in Turkey.
His comments came a day after Human Rights Watch said Turkish border guards were shooting and beating Syrian refugees trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.
"We did not shut our doors to those who are coming. We did not use our security forces against them," Erdogan said, in apparent reference to the claims.
He said Turkey believed closing doors to people who flee barrel bombs was tantamount to cruelty. "We have opened our doors to them," he added.
Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that Turkish authorities should stop pushing Syrian asylum seekers back at the border, urging Ankara to investigate "all use of excessive force by border guards."
Human Rights Watch said that during March and April this year Turkish border guards used violence against Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers, killing five people, including a child, and seriously injuring 14 others.
It added that Syrians living near the border also described the aftermath of the shootings and beatings, including Turkish border guards firing at them as they tried to recover bodies at the border wall.
One witness filmed a number of the dead and surviving victims and shared the videos with Human Rights Watch, it added.
"We are unable to verify the authenticity of the video purporting to show Turkish border guards targeting refugees," a Turkish official said.
The official said Turkey maintains an "open-door" policy but added the open door policy "isn't the same as open borders."
"Turkey admits refugees at designated points of entry if and when there is an imminent threat to civilian lives across the border," the official said, adding that otherwise Turkish aid organisations deliver humanitarian aid to those in need inside Syria
Turkey is hosting over 2.7 million refugees from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Only a quarter of a million live in refugee camps, with the rest living in Turkish towns and cities.
The government often boasts of the warm welcome extended to Syrians although some critics have suggested the "open door" policy is now at an end with refugees increasingly accommodated on the other side of the border.