From August 22-28, 2011, a delegation representing the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) conducted a fact-finding mission in Turkey to assess the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey and examine the circumstances under which they fled their country.
The refugees, who arrived in large numbers since the eruption of violence in Syria mid-March, have either witnessed or personally suffered major human rights violations and they continue to fear for their lives should they return to their country.
The EMHRN continues to strongly condemn the Syrian government for its deadly crackdown and excessive use of force on pro-democracy demonstrators in Syria that has killed more than 2,700 people and led to the arrest and torture of hundreds more.
The EMHRN acknowledges the Turkish Government’s humane handling of the thousands of Syrian refugees, and the efficient accommodation it has offered them.
However, EMHRN reiterates that providing full protection to the people coming from Syria seeking asylum in Turkey is not only a humanitarian imperative but a legal obligation under international refugee law and international human rights law.
As “guests” of the Turkish State, the Syrian refugees may enjoy de facto protection but their status is open to interpretation and to revocation. It lacks the minimum guarantees that the full application of the 1994 Turkish Asylum Regulations would provide.
In spite of the many shortcomings of the Turkish regular asylum system under which non-European asylum seekers are only entitled to temporary asylum, allowing Syrian nationals who wish to register as asylum seekers by the Governorship and the UNHCR would provide a clearer status and clearer legal protection against refoulement. It would also entitle refugees to being issued an ID card and a temporary residence permit.
With the Syrian crisis intensifying every week, and the likelihood that the refugees will be unable to return home in the near future, EMHRN urges therefore the Turkish government to reconsider the “guest” status provided to the refugees and to allow them to register as “asylum seekers”.
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