Istanbul, 1 December 2015. On the day of the EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, ECRE went on a field visit to Istanbul to meet with Turkish civil society and get a better understanding of the challenges on the ground and the impact on refugee protection.
ECRE is deeply concerned that the EU-Turkey deal will result in an increased risk of refoulement and human rights violations. Immediately after the EU-Turkey deal, 1,300 migrants and refugees were arrested and detained by Turkish authorities at the coast, to prevent them from travelling. At the same time, reports suggest that crossing the Syria-Turkey border remains extremely difficult. ECRE fears that the current deal will not only result in boats being turned back and increased detention, but also more refugees stranded at the Turkish-Syrian border.
Winter weather conditions and stricter border controls will not prevent refugees from trying to reach Europe; instead, they are likely to use more dangerous means to cross. This is why ECRE believes it is crucial to provide safe and legal channels for refugees, including family reunification, resettlement and other forms of admission.
“As long as there are people fleeing from persecution, no matter how strict the border controls are, they will not be stopped from trying to reach safety. The EU needs to meet its responsibilities and avoid more human misery,” stated Piril Erçoban from Mülteci-Der.
According to UNHCR, one in ten Syrian refugees living in the countries neighbouring Syria are currently in need of resettlement. ECRE calls for a global effort to make this a reality, with European states showing leadership by coming forward with a bold and generous offer for resettlement and other forms of admission for Syrians out of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Part of the financial support of 3bn Euro made available by the EU to Turkey for the Refugee Facility is aimed towards humanitarian assistance and refugee integration. Turkey currently hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees, and over 200,000 refugees of other nationalities, especially Afghans and Iraqis, dispersed across the country. Aside from the provision of humanitarian assistance, refugees face serious challenges in accessing services, education and the labour market, including a substantial risk of exploitation. Child labour is also a major concern and a substantial part of Syrian children are out of school.
Turkish law currently fails to offer refugees a secure long term status. These factors, together with numerous local protection challenges, prevent Syrians from sustaining themselves in the country, and account for their need to move further towards Europe. Afghans and other nationalities face similar, if not increased protection and integration challenges.
“Legal assistance and monitoring by independent civil society is a crucial precondition to address this and strengthen the protection space in Turkey,” Oktay Durukan from Refugee Rights Turkey said.
ECRE believes it is crucial that appropriate funding is secured to support sustainable solutions for refugees in Turkey, and that indicators and accountability mechanisms are in place to monitor the use of this funding.
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