Turkish Human Rights Institution organized a workshop in Ankara on December 11, 2014 on “Syrian Refugees”. Representatives of line ministries and public agencies, academicians working on the subject and representatives of civil society organizations participated the workshop. Additionally, the representatives of the associations and platforms established by the Syrians were invited to the workshop as well. The speakers touched upon the below mentioned topics in the workshop:
Representative of Association for Solidarity with Refugees; Pırıl ERÇOBAN moderated the first session titled as “Syrian Refugees; Overall Situation Since 2011 and Legal Dimension” in which Assoc. Prof. Murat ERDOĞAN stated that there was a perception like the Syrians coming to Turkey would stay for a short time and go back to their home countries but such perception had vanished in time, Migration and Politics Research Center of Hacettepe University has conducted a survey on the topic and according to the findings of the aforementioned survey currently there were 1.165.279 registered Syrians in Turkey followed by refugees from Lebanon (1.147.244), Jordan (620.441), Iraq (228.484) and Egypt (137.671), “open door policy” harmed these countries implementing the policy since these countries had to bear both the economic and physical burden, Turkey was under a financial cost of 4.5 billion USD becoming the world’s third major donor.
Mr. Erdoğan said that according to the public survey conducted in eighteen provinces the rate of persons perceiving the Syrians as “individuals fleeing from persecution” was high but because of economic and social concerns exclusion of Syrians was at a significant level. He underlined that these people were in Turkey permanently; not temporarily and serious steps had to be taken in the fields of education, health and benefiting from any kind of public service.
The second speaker of the first session; Prof. Nuray EKŞİ explained the international protection institution in her speech; 1951 Geneva Convention Concerning the Legal Status of Refugees and Turkey’s reservation based on “geographical limitation” providing status of refugee to individuals solely coming from Europe. She added that the individuals coming from other countries than Europe would be subject to “conditional refugee” status but this situation was valid for individuals and in case of massive flows like in the case of Syrians, who arrived on April 28, 2011, a “temporary protection” status was recognized by the Council of Ministers with an unlimited validity. Prof Ekşi further stated that the non-existence of time limit for such status, inclusion of territorial waters in this provision and the mild approach at the borders were even ahead of the legislations of several European countries.
The second session was moderated by President of Asylum and Migration Research Center Association; Metin ÇORABATIR and focused on “Efforts of National and International Organizations and Public Agencies Concerning the Syrian Refugees”. The first speaker of the second session Alev ÖRSEL explained the duties of her organization; UNHCR and stated that assisting the host countries about the refugees was their basic duty, they provided support for the Syrians in Turkey in many different areas and the problem was not only the concern of Turkey but the entire international community.
Representative of AFAD İsmail YEŞİL said that the number of migrants received by Turkey between 1923-2011 was 2.5 million but only within the period starting in April 2011 till now the same number of migrants has come to Turkey and in this context AFAD was turned into a responsible agency after the inclusion of two basic additions such as “emergency management” and “responsibility in human and technology based disasters” among the duties of AFAD. Mr. Yeşil added that through a regulation issued in 2009 “massive migration flows and asylum” have been defined as disaster / emergency as well.
Representative of Refugee Rights Coordination; Volkan GÖRENDAĞ said that their organization was established with the participation of six organizations and was a cooperation network that was initiated in 2008 with the secretarial tasks undertaken by Human Rights Joint Platform (İHOP) in Ankara. He added that there were 200.000 registered Kobani people in Suruç, the obligation to enter in with a passport was introduced lately, 17 people were shot while crossing the border leaving a few of them killed; but if open door policy were to be observed then the right to enter in Turkey should be applicable for those, who do not have passport, the refugee problem continued for more than four years and Directorate General of Migration Management should resolve the problem.
Representative of Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM); Mehtap İYİCE said that the tasks and operations undertaken by security units pertaining to the foreigners were transferred to DGMM now, the ID issued for the Syrians was not a residence permit, the Syrians were required to get registered in the address registry system of the province they resided, the right to apply to Ministry of Labor and Social Security was given to the Syrians for employment purposes, the institutions were notified to provide services to the Syrians whose registration operations have been completed, a data base was being prepared covering the foreigners and IDs were provided to the Syrians, who were under temporary protection.
Representative of International Refugee Rights Association; Aybüke EKİCİ said that serious difficulties were experienced in provision of the rights and resorting to legal remedies as in the implementation of Law on Foreigners and International Protection, there were black holes for the refugees in removal centers, airports and outside the camps, it was very difficult to access these places, the asylum applications were not processed in these places, access to attorney services was not possible, refugee issue should be considered in the context of human trafficking and organ trafficking as well, it was necessary to forego the discourse on temporariness of the situation and compliance should be attained with the society.
Representative of Ministry of Labor and Social Security; Hüseyin KOCAPIÇAK said that the work permits were also accepted as residence permits, there was an obligation to apply to the Ministry for a work permit, applications could be done online, the respond to applications could be taken online so the individuals were not obliged to come to Ankara, 3239 work permits were issued for Syrians until now, the low number stemmed from the lack of identity cards of the refugees, Article 29 of Regulation on International Protection regulated employment, the individuals were allowed to apply from the provinces they resided, the permits based on the Regulation would be temporary, the permits could be monitored in the system, the remuneration should be at least at minimum wage level and the working refugees could benefit from social security ensuring registered employment.
The third session on “Public and Civil Society Support in Education, Health, Housing and Infrastructure Services” was moderated by member of Human Rights Board; Yılmaz ENSAROĞLU. The first speaker was Metropolitan Mayor of Şanlıurfa; Celalettin GÜVENÇ. He said that Şanlıurfa’s population was 1.800.000 but there were 500.000 Syrian refugees in the province, 3 tent cities, 2 container cities and 2 temporary accommodation centers were providing service in the region, intensive efforts have been carried out in the last 3.5 years, cooperation was established especially with the Humanitarian Assistance Platform (HAP) established with the inclusion of several civil society organizations, infrastructural support was given to the camp construction in Suruç, the assistance gathered in campaigns undertaken by HAP was collected in logistics center and 163 trucks of humanitarian aid were sent to Syria, a new logistics center was requested by HAP due to abundance of assistance, biometric registration was initiated by the help of a newly established coordination center. Mr. Güvenç also mentioned the importance of education, health and employment rights of the Syrians in and outside the camps and allocation of sufficient resources with this purpose.
Representative of Human Rights and Freedoms Association; Gülden SÖNMEZ said that the Association has an experience of more than 20 years with regard to the refugees, they worked on a vast geography in this process, their intensive field experience could be utilized within the context of Syrian incident, the two main activity areas of the Association being humanitarian aid and violation of rights were tried to be undertaken at prevention level, various efforts have been carried out with numerous national and international organizations until now, the Association was acting as a bridge so as to explain the problem of Syrians in Turkey to the world, they had a regional coordination center, especially Kilis and Reyhanlı Coordination Centers were very important. She suggested that the field experience and civil society organizations should be taken more into account by the government, crisis management should be done by a special team in the case of Syria, Syrians should be included in the decisions concerning them, social activities should be organized throughout the country for the Syrians staying outside the camps, academicians should have more and detailed studies on the issue, special measures should be taken against the problems faced by women (violence, rape, early marriage), the number of woman personnel should be increased and permanent solutions must be created.
Representative of Ministry of Health; Muhammet CEREN said that health services for Syrians have been underway since April 2011, services were provided in three categories for those under temporary protection being 112 emergency care for those who came injured from the border, primary and preventive health care and secondary and tertiary health services at the hospitals, polyclinic service was provided to more than 6.000.000 people in and out of the camps, 24 ambulances and teams, 29 specialists, 50 practitioners, 5 dentists and 188 auxiliary health personnel were employed in the camps, services for those under temporary protection were provided within the scope of Health Practice Circular.
Representative of Helsinki Citizens’ Association Hakan ATAMAN said that the Association was established in 1993 and basic areas of work were human rights, the rule of law and democracy, since 2004 they had a Refugee Support Program, in this scope between the years 2011 - 2013 they managed a psychosocial and medical support project for the refugees in İstanbul with the cooperation of Spanish Division of Doctors Without Frontiers, again in cooperation with Doctors Without Frontiers primary health care services and psychosocial support were provided to the Syrians in Kilis since April 2013, in the 20-month process 65.403 applications were taken, they could not assist the unregistered individuals, they were warned that there would be sanctions if they served the unregistered refugees, other than psychosocial support services they distributed hygiene kits and humanitarian assistance kits as well, regional round table meetings were held to discuss the problems of Syrians, field visits were realized to evaluate the situation of Yezidis, Ministry of Family and Social Polices did not undertake a study on the issue, legal arrangements were focusing on security rather than the rights, Presidency of Associations Department had a negative attitude against the civil society, there were 17 reputable CSO’s willing to work in Turkey but they were not allowed to, efforts were carried out to provide equivalence to the Syrian doctors so that they could work in Turkey.
Member of Human Rights Board; Nihat BULUT moderated the final session titled as “Problems of Syrian Refugees and Solution Proposals” and the first speaker President of Asylum and Migration Research Center Association; Metin ÇORABATIR said that it was necessary to include the Syrians in all of the processes concerning them, it should be possible to access to documents and information in order to draft policies and strategies, there was a confusion about the concept of refugee; four different categories were included in the related Law increasing to five within the framework of Article 91; the different status under the Law led the States to undermine the issue; according to Geneva Convention there was a single concept; if Turkey would not eliminate the geographical limitation within the framework of the Convention the refugee policies would always be deficient, significant part of the Syrians would never go back to their countries, that’s why it was necessary to provide them with better conditions so that they could contribute to Turkey in time.
Representative of Amnesty International; Taner KILIÇ said that the migration flow witnessed in Turkey was one of the most serious massive flux experienced in the world but such a significant task was assigned to foreigners division under GDS, the personnel had an approach focusing on “security”, which created a lot of pressure and downgraded the human rights and human dignity, in his context the public agencies should not close their ears to CSO’S and right organizations, it was crucial to develop serious social policies and strategies in the short, medium and long run, the “coordination model” in Şanlıurfa was exemplary, these individuals who were not aware of their rights should be informed about legal aid, and the Bar Associations should fulfill the tasks assigned to them by the laws.
At the end of the workshop in his closing remarks member of Human Rights Board; Levent KORKUT evaluated that Human Rights Institution of Turkey had a human rights perspective, in case of contradicting with fundamental rights criticisms would be heard about national and international legislation, practices and efforts, the status arranged under Temporary Protection Regulation has not been envisaged before, a permanent status should be given to these individuals, necessary investment should be done in the field of education right now since the Syrian children could pose a different and serious problem as a group of unemployed youngsters in 15-20 years time if the necessary education possibilities could not be provided today, there were difficulties in reflecting the civil society and field organization to the documents, there was the problem of communication and dialogue among the relevant agencies, the lack of communication was witnessed among the public agencies as well, media was not effectively used, Hate speech should be defeated and lack of vision should be overcome in order to be open to communication.
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