Syrian refugees trapped in limbo
Many refugees from Syria are trapped in a limbo in Turkey. They do not have formal refugee status and live in extremely difficult conditions, while the routes to Europe are blocked.
Last year, the EU and Turkey agreed on an arrangement for the return of refugees from Greece to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey would get financial help for hosting the Syrian refugees, as well as the possibility of visa facilitation for Turkish citizens. The deal also provided for the gradual resettlement of up to 72,000 Syrians from Turkey to European countries.
The EU-Turkey deal - a failure?
According to the European Commission, the deal is working fine and delivering concrete results. Indeed, since March 2016, the number of irregular arrivals from Turkey to Greece has fallen drastically. However, the deal is not really working for many reasons: The number of arrivals far exceed the reception capacity on the islands, the Greek asylum system is over-burdened and its processing of applications very slow, and thousands are consequently stuck in very poor living conditions on the Greek islands. When it comes to resettlement to European countries, only 9,000 Syrians have so far been resettled from Turkey under the deal.
- The so-called EU-Turkey deal and all the negotiations surrounding refugee lives make the refugees more vulnerable in Turkey, putting them more at the mercy of the Turkish authorities, says Özlem Gürakar Skribeland. Gürakar Skribeland is doctoral fellow at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law and the MIGMA research Project.
- Turkey has a poor human rights track record and does not provide refugee protection in line with international law standards. When European countries or institutions criticize the Turkish migration management and their violations of human rights, however, they are not taken seriously. Seeing that European countries are trying to push away responsibility, many people in Turkey ask: “When Europe is acting the way it is, why should we take care of all the three million Syrians in Turkey?”
Unwanted refugees in Turkey
Moreover, Turkey’s focus itself has shifted to preventing further arrivals into the country. Not only has the country’s original open-door policy towards the Syrians been abandoned. Turkey has also completed a long wall along the Syrian border earlier this year, with plans to build similar walls along the Iraqi and Iranian borders. The walls results in blocking access to international protection for prospective asylum seekers, and it also contributes to the refugees and asylum seekers being increasingly perceived as unwanted in the Turkish society. According to Gürakar Skribeland, all of this adds to increased vulnerability.
Özlem Gürakar Skribeland commented on the situation of the Syrian refugees in a news report on TV2 last week (in Norwegian):