Saturday, May 14, 2016

No, Turkey is not a safe country for refugees

So sending refugees back there to
“discourage others from making the dangerous journey”
is hypocrisy

Many politicians have been claiming that they are refusing refugees asylum and sending them back to Turkey in order to “discourage others from making the dangerous journey” to the EU. There are a few problems with that story.

First Turkey is not a safe country for refugees in any sense. Turkey has been deporting Syrian refugees back to Syria since January , including many children (1) – (2).

On top of that Turkish border guards have actually begun shooting Syrian refugees as they try to cross the border  (3).

And since the middle of last year there has also been civil war in Turkey itself, between the Turkish government and military and Kurdish separatist groups. There was a peace process between the two and negotiations were close to a breakthrough. Then left-wing Kurdish pro-peace HDP party won enough seats in an election to take away President Erdogan’s AKP party’s majority in parliament (4) – (5).

At the same time in Syria,  Syrian Kurdish groups with the support of the PKK (a Turkish Kurdish separatist group) took territory in Syria, on the border with Turkey. This raised Turkish fears of a Kurdish state (6).

Erdogan responded by restarting the war with the PKK and other Kurdish separatists in Turkey. Kurdish civilians in Turkey are among the casualties of Turkish military sniper fire and there is some evidence of war crimes against Kurdish civilians (7) – (8).

This means Turkish Kurds aren’t even safe, let alone Syrian Kurdish refugees.

What’s more there has been no food for many of the Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon since the middle of last year, when the UN was forced to cut off food aid to many of them due to lack of funds. Wealthier governments simply haven’t donated enough money to buy that food (9).

Nor is Turkey even a proper democracy for people born there – journalists and even opposition MPs who criticise the government are often jailed.  Insulting the President is a criminal offence with a sentence of 4 years or more in jail. So refugees can forget about having any rights at all (10) – (11).

Libya is even more dangerous, with the many sided civil war still going on.

Why aren’t The Muslim / Arab countries Taking Their Share?
They are – EU countries aren’t

The Gulf states including Saudi, despite some mistaken media reports, have been taking in some Syrian refugees, but given Saudi is a hardline Sunni Muslim dictatorship with religious police, no Christian, Shia Muslim, secular, or moderate Sunni Muslim Syrian refugee is likely to want to go there. (see the blog post on this link – scrolling down to bolded sub-heading ‘Are the wealthiest Arab states refusing to take in any Syrian refugees?’)

The reality is that Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have each taken far more refugees per capita and relative to their size and wealth than any EU country. (also see comparison of the UK and Jordan on the post on this link under bolded  sub-heading ‘Is the UK taking more than its share of refugees'). (12)

The EU and the UK should take more. And as long as both are sending refugees, including children, back to Turkey, pretending it’s a “safe country”, it is impossible to be proud to be either British or European.

True, David Cameron did do a partial u-turn on his government’s refusal to allow any unaccompanied child refugees from Calais to be granted asylum in the UK. But this only allows children who arrived before 20th March to apply for refugee status – and there is no guarantee of any who reach their 18th birthday soon being allowed to stay after that (13).

Why are they coming here illegally?
Because They’re Given No Other Option

As for the outrage over migrants and refugees “coming here illegally” what choice are they given? The vast majority of them have none. Other than the pitiful number of 4,000 a year being selected by the UK from refugee camps in Turkey, out of millions of Syrian refugees, to one of the richest and largest countries in the EU, they have to the EU or UK illegally to make an asylum claim (14) – (15).

The obvious alternative would be for governments like the UK’s to tell their embassies in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon (and also countries bordering Libya, like Tunisia) to accept applications for asylum from people in those countries. Those whose claims were judged genuine would be granted refugee status and helped to travel safely to the UK, meaning they wouldn’t have to make dangerous journeys, pay people smugglers who are often violent criminals, or do anything illegal.


(1) = BBC News 15 Jan 2016 ‘Turkey 'acting illegally' over Syria refugees deportations’,

(2) = Amnesty International 01 Apr 2016 ‘Turkey: Illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal’,

(3) = Independent 31 Mar 2016 ‘Turkey 'shooting dead' Syrian refugees as they flee civil war’,

(4) = Newsweek 04 Aug 2015 ‘Turkey's Erdoğan calls on other parties to be 'realistic' after his party loses its majority’,

(5) = Independent 08 Jun 2015 ‘Turkey's Erdoğan calls on other parties to be 'realistic' after his party loses its majority’,

(6) = Telegraph 25 Jul 2015 ‘For Erdogan, Turkish assault is about containing the Kurds as much as fighting Isil’,

(7) = Guardian 08 Sep 2015 ‘Kurdish civilians hit by snipers as Turkey cracks down on militants’,

(8) = Independent 22 Jan 2016 ‘Video shows Kurds waving white flag 'shot by Turkish soldiers'’,

(9) = Guardian 06 Sep 2015 ‘UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis’,

(10) = New Yorker ‘Turkey’s jailed journalists’,

(11) = BBC News 16 Apr 2015 ‘The problem with insulting Turkey's President Erdogan’,

(12) = Amnesty International 03 Feb 2016 ‘Syria's refugee crisis in numbers’,

(13) = 07 May 2016 ‘Should David Cameron’s U-turn on unaccompanied child refugees be celebrated?’,

(14) = BBC News 07 Sep 2015 ‘UK to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020’,

(15) = See (10) above

No comments: