ANKARA (HRW)–Turkey’s government was accused on Monday of misleading the European Union about progress made in resettling nearly 400,000 people displaced by the civil war between the army and Kurdish separatists in the 1980s and 1990s.
Human Rights Watch alleged the government had exaggerated the number of people returning to their villages and farms in the southeast of the country last year–just as EU political leaders were deciding whether to invite Turkey to join the EU. The organization said the government’s claim that one-third of the estimated 378,000 mainly Kurdish refugees were being helped to return home was "unreliable." It said its own investigation showed that in some places–the number was less than a fifth of the official estimates.
"Our analysis found that the official statistics are not entirely reliable–and that permanent returns are running at a much lower rate than indicated," Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on Monday.
It said many villagers were reluctant to return because their homes and villages had been destroyed and were often without electricity–telephone lines–education–or health facilities. Assistance with reconstruction was "minimal or non-existent."
Rachel Denber–acting executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division–accused paramilitary village guards of "attacking and killing" returnees in some parts of the region. She said a visiting EU delegation should put the issue of returnees at the top of its agenda.
The resettlement of people displaced by the civil war is a benchmark of Turkey’s chances of joining the EU–and the government has pledged to facilitate their return. The refugees were forced out of villages and farms across a swathe of the south-east by the armed forces in their campaign against PKK rebels.