The rights of refugees must be respected – they are not to be bargained away


The United Nation’s Secretary General has chosen Turkey, which is known for atrocious human rights violations, for the World Humanitarian Summit. The World Humanitarian Summit is taking place in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May 2016. There have been many protests against holding the summit in Turkey. This decision cannot be justified with the argument that it may serve the objective of the summit to hold it in the place where it is needed the most. But for the political opposition in Turkey as well as for the estimated 3 million refugees in Turkey, this decision may seem to justify the many human rights violations for which the Turkish government has been held accountable by the European Court of Human Rights.

One of the main themes of the planned summit is to be, “Serving the needs of people in conflict”, which surely renders it utterly inappropriate for Turkey to be hosting the event, given the current humanitarian disaster taking place in cities across the country’s southeast. These cities have been subjected to curfew, bombardment and deliberate destruction by Turkish state forces.

The Council of Europe has issued a stinging indictment of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey, which it said at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under international law. In line with this statement, ELDH condemns the bargain made between the European Union and Turkey which aims to prevent refugees from exercising their right to asylum in the country which they themselves believe to be the best destination in which to safeguard their lives. The EU/Turkey refugee deal violates the rights of refugees protected by the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee, in particular Art. 26, 27, and 28.

Since 4 April 2016 several hundred refugees have been sent back from Greece to Turkey in spite of their pending asylum application in Greece. In Turkey they risk being deported to their country of origin without a fair asylum procedure. Under the present Turkish government this is very likely to increase their risk of becoming victims of additional human rights violations. The case of 30 Syrian refugee children aged between 8 and 12 who were sexually assaulted over a period of three months, allegedly by a cleaning worker, is only one example.


ELDH appeals to the EU and to the Turkish government

  • to respect the existing European and international refugee and other human rights law, i.e. not to force refugees against their will back to Turkey
  • to grant all refugees a non-restricted asylum application procedure
  • even with the EU-Turkey deal in place, asylum claims made in Greece still have to be considered according to the existing Dublin Regulation, suggesting that those with valid and verified family connections would be transferred to the appropriate EU Member State to complete asylum procedures rather than being returned to Turkey.

ELDH appeals to the EU

  • to relocate refugees from Greece, Italy or Spain to other countries
  • not to accept Turkey as a safe third country and therefore not to send refugees back to Turkey
  • to withdraw from the EU Turkey refugee agreement
  • to provide the establishment of legal centres in all refugee camps, to assure legal consultation and representation to all refugees.


ELDH appeals to the Turkish Government

  • The Turkish Government should remove the geographical restriction on the application of the Refugee Convention, and should be reminded of its obligation to uphold the principle of non-refoulement regardless of the geographical restriction.
  • It should also establish without delay an independent advisory committee, composed of independent experts and representatives of the UNHCR and relevant non-governmental organizations, in order comprehensively to review refugee protection in Turkey and make recommendations on how the government could better discharge its international obligations toward refugees. Particular urgency should be given to amendments to asylum laws and refugee status determination procedures in order to ensure that they do not result in refoulement. For this purpose our Turkish lawyer’s associations ÇHD and ÖHD along with other Human rights organisations should be granted access to the Turkish refugee camps in order to monitor the human rights situation in there.