The protests that broke out a month ago are aggravated day by day in Syria – a country that has the longest land border with Turkey. Syrian government has taken up military measures especially in the last two weeks against the protestors by using heavy weapons which resulted in killing hundreds of civilians and injuring thousands.
Some Syrians escaped from the chaos in Syria to find a safe place. They sought asylum in Turkey, the closest neighbor to Syria. Those who sought asylum in Turkey have been accepted by the Turkish authorities coming to Yayladag, the border town of Hatay on 29 April 2011 and the authorities took measures to meet needs of health, shelter, food and security of 252 Syrian asylum seekers.
Coordination for Refugee Rights (CRR) welcomes the decision of the Turkish Republic on opening the borders to these people who seek asylum in its territory. Hereafter, the CRR would like to make some recommendations on further actions to be taken by the Turkish Government:
- The Syrian border should not be sealed considering the possible movements of asylum and those who came to seek asylum should not be returned on the boarder and they should be granted protection.
- When the asylum seekers coming from Syria are accepted to the country and when their subsequent needs are met, these should be carried out equally without discrimination because of ethnic origin, religion or similar grounds.
- Demands of those who could meet their needs with their own resources or who want to live together with the citizens of the Republic of Turkey because of their family relationship must be considered.
- The long term measures should be taken for unaccompanied minors under the coordination of Turkish Social Services and Children Protection Institution (SHÇEK) with members of professional experts.
- The authorities should include NGOs consistently at all stages of the acceptance procedures concerning the asylum seekers, and they should allow the NGOs’ access to the places where the asylum seekers are kept as guests.
- The authorities should grant the asylum seekers access to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) during the acceptance procedure and in the subsequent processes and UNHCR should be allowed to monitor the whole process.
- Applications for asylum under the Geneva Convention of 1951 should also be examined separately and be evaluated.
- In any circumstance asylum seekers should not be returned to Syria before the conflict is over.
Providing protection to the people coming from Syria seeking asylum in Turkey is not only a humanitarian imperative but also the obligation of the Turkish government under the international law, as guaranteed by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and other international treaties, to which Turkey is a party. Turkey should conscientiously abide by the fourth section of the 1994 Asylum Regulation1 covering the procedures for acceptance of asylum seekers coming to the Turkish territory in groups, without prejudice to the international conventions to which Turkey is a party.
1 The full name is “Regulation on Procedures and Principles Related to Mass Influx and Foreigners Arriving in Turkey either as Individuals or in Groups Wishing to Seek Asylum either from Turkey or Requesting Residence Permits with the Intention of Seeking Asylum from a Third Country” with decision number 94/6169, available at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/49746cc62.html [accessed 3 May 2011]
Coordination for Refugee Rights (CRR) in Turkey:
The CRR was established on 15 March 2010 by seven leading human rights organizations* as a new framework for cooperation and joint advocacy efforts to promote and uphold the legal protection of individuals escaping war and persecution and seeking asylum in Turkey. The initiative represents a shared commitment to working together to promote public awareness and ownership of asylum issues in Turkey and to intervene in the government’s policy agenda on asylum and migration management from a human rights perspective. Human Rights Joint Platform provides secretariat support for CRR activities.
* Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Human Rights Research Association, Human Rights Association, Human Rights Agenda Association, Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed, Association for Solidarity with Refugees, Amnesty International Turkey