EMHRN mission to camps:
Syrian Refugees in Turkey Need International Protection
Copenhagen 29 August 2011,
An EMHRN delegation conducted a mission August 22-28 to assess the
situation of Syrian refugees in camps in southern Turkey, and met with
refugees, Turkish NGOs and officials and other stake-holders. The mission has
concluded that while it is appreciative of Turkey’s efforts to shelter the
Syrians fleeing violence in their country, it urges the Turkish government to
grant UNHCR full access to the camps and to allow the Syrians to apply for
refugee status with full protection according to international conventions.
Thousands of Syrian men, women and children have been
crossing into Turkey, escaping military and security attacks on their towns and
villages following anti-government demonstrations taking place since March
2011. Most of the refugees are from the town of Jisr al-Shughour and
surrounding villages, which were nearly emptied after the Syrian government
publicly threatened to storm them. More have recently arrived from Latakia, and
Hama. Today there are approximately 7,000 Syrian refugees housed in six camps
spread across the Hatay border province.
The EMHRN continues to strongly denounce the Syrian
government’s human rights violations against demonstrators, and urges it to
stop its heavy crackdown.
Many refugees arrived with no passports or other form of
identity, and those that EMHRN interviewed said they were well treated by the
Turkish military at the informal border crossings, which registered their
details and transferred them to special Turkish Red Crescent-run camps. Turkey
has continued to allow its borders to remain open to the Syrians, who do not
need visas, and has provided them to varying degrees with shelter, food,
medical facilities and even children’s playgrounds.
The Turkish government considers these refugees as “Guests,”
a status that is open to interpretation and lacks the international protection
that the UNHCR can provide. UNHCR has not been allowed regular access to the
camps, and EMHRN learned that only those few Syrian refugees who managed with
difficulty to reach the organization’s Ankara office were registered as asylum
seekers. As the Syrian conflict continues to intensify, refugees told EMHRN
they did not feel safe enough to return home in the foreseeable future.
The EMHRN therefore strongly urges the Turkish government to
grant the UNHCR unrestricted access to the camps, and to allow for refugee
registration of those who wish to do so, in accordance with international
conventions. Turkey has ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention but limits it to
citizens of Council of Europe members.
Turkey has not allowed media visits to the camps, except for
restricted access in June, nor visits by international and local human rights
organizations, including the Coordination for Refugee Rights (CRR- a coalition
of seven local and international human rights groups).
The EMHRN urges Turkey to reconsider its policies and,
provided security safeguards are met, allow media access as well as oversight
by international and local human rights organizations into how the camps are
run. This would meet refugee demands, especially that some of them pointed to
cramped conditions, water and sanitation problems, and sometimes inadequate
Finally, the EMHRN would urge the Turkish government to
introduce clear regulations allowing the refugees daily trips outside the
camps, as these have so far been granted arbitrarily. Many told EMHRN that
although their basic needs were being met, they felt they were being held in a
prison, which is likely to exacerbate tension within the camps.
A report from the mission will be available shortly.
For more information please contact
Rim Hajji, Deputy Coordinator Migration and Asylum/for
Arabic, French and English /Email: EMHRN.email@example.com ,Cell phone: