Category Archives: In Depth

The banality of evil and the normalization of the discriminatory discourses against Syrians in Turkey

Via Aysecan Terzioglu in Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia 4(2): 34-47 This article discusses the ways in which discriminatory political, social and cultural discourses and practices against the Syrian forced migrants affect the health of Syrians in Turkey. It also contends that though these discourses and  practices stem from the current political environment, they are also related to complex and problematic interactions between Turkey and Arab countries in the past, particularly the clash between Arab and Turkish nationalisms. Continue reading The banality of evil and the normalization of the discriminatory discourses against Syrians in Turkey

Shedding Light on the Maritime Border between Turkey and Greece – Changes in the Border regime in the Aegean Sea since the EU-Turkey Deal

Reporting from the kritnet conference in Göttingen – Part 2

The HarekAct editorial board attended the 16th kritnet conference in Göttingen between 11-13th of May. It was a very good occasion to share and exchange knowledge, meet our friends, activists and colleagues again and discuss future projects and plans. We took part in the workshop titled “Post 2015 Border Regime – Re-Stabilization of the European Border Regime after the ‘Long Summer of Migration’”. We discussed the extension of borders into the cities following the example of Istanbul; the state of the border regime and public debate on migration in Turkey; and the impact and future of the EU-Turkey statement for both Greece and Turkey. Besides the individual inputs, we had a rich collective discussion with various perspectives, information and experiences brought by activists, researchers and professionals from Germany, Turkey, Greece and Kurdish region, and we are looking forward to keep building on the ideas we had as well as the connections we built there.

Although with a little bit of delay, now we would like to share our contributions to the workshop one by one. Enjoy the inputs presented by HarekAct editors in written and updated form in our blog. Keep posted!


copyright: Moritz Richter

Disobedient Border Crossings…

Since the EU-Turkey Deal, the number of clandestine border crossings has dropped substantially, and the agreement is still deterring many migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea. But that’s not the whole picture: Since April 2016, more than 60.000 people made it across the Aegean, and boats are still landing on the islands on an almost daily basis, despite augmented border control. Recently, the number of migrants arriving on the Greek Aegean islands via the sea are increasing again. While around 3.200 people arrived between April and May 2017, the number almost doubled during the same period in 2018, with circa 6.000 migrants making it safely to Greece. This year up until mid-June, circa 13.000 migrants have crossed from Turkey to Greece, with most of the boats still arriving on Lesvos island (ca. 7.000) (see UNHCR).

In the following text, I will take a closer look at the changes and dynamics in the Aegean Sea following the EU-Turkey Deal. Although border patrol agents are increasing their capacities, we are still witnessing many disobedient border crossings and a civil society which continues to report about rights violations at sea. Continue reading Shedding Light on the Maritime Border between Turkey and Greece – Changes in the Border regime in the Aegean Sea since the EU-Turkey Deal

Extension of the Borders in/to the City: Istanbul

Reporting from the kritnet conference Göttingen – Part 1

The HarekAct editorial board attended the 16th kritnet conference in Göttingen between 11-13th of May. It was a very good occasion to share and exchange knowledge, meet our friends, activists and colleagues again and discuss future projects and plans. We took part in the workshop titled “Post 2015 Border Regime – Re-Stabilization of the European Border Regime after the ‘Long Summer of Migration’”. We discussed the extension of borders into the cities following the example of Istanbul; the state of the border regime and public debate on migration in Turkey; and the impact and future of the EU-Turkey statement for both Greece and Turkey. Besides the individual inputs, we had a rich collective discussion with various perspectives, information and experiences brought by activists, researchers and professionals from Germany, Turkey, Greece and Kurdish region, and we are looking forward to keep building on the ideas we had as well as the connections we built there.

Although with a little bit of delay, now we would like to share our contributions to the workshop one by one. Enjoy the inputs presented by HarekAct editors in written and updated form in our blog. Keep posted!


With the so-called “summer of migration” three years behind us, and the European borders still sealed tight, it seems a good opportunity to remind ourselves of where these migrants are currently waiting, and what has happened since then. With this intention, I will here try to present an overview of the post-2015 migration context and the related management regime in Istanbul, Turkey.

To set the time frame, it should firstly be highlighted that Turkey’s “open border” policy on the Syrian border was effectively ended by March 2015, and was replaced with the militarization of border security through the erecting of border walls.

Border wall at the Turkey-Syria border. Photo by: sabah.com.

Continue reading Extension of the Borders in/to the City: Istanbul

HarekAct Newsletter V – April, May, and June 2018

Developments on the Greek Islands

In mid-April, after a court decision, the news that the restriction of movement to the mainland for all migrants arriving on the Greek islands from then on had been lifted made the headlines. Hopes were high of these developments among refugees and their supporters. However, the Greek government quickly issued an administrative decision only a couple of days later, reinstating the former policy, known as the “containment policy” that is responsible for the terrible conditions many migrants face.

Meanwhile, in the four-day trial against the #Moria35 in April, 32 of the 35 defendants were collectively convicted of injuring police officers. The process was politically motivated from the very beginning with almost no proof against the defendants. They were collectively convicted to a 26 months suspended prison sentence, though this penalty is temporarily suspended, since their lawyers lodged an appeal against the decision. Valeria Hänsel, who contributes to HarekAct, drawing on her insights on the situation of refugees on Lesvos and focusing on their detention and deportations, wrote a report about the trial, that we published on HarekAct (in German). Continue reading HarekAct Newsletter V – April, May, and June 2018

Turkey has joined the ICMPD: What does this mean?

Now even closer: ICMPD and Turkey (photo by ICMPD)

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on 15 May that Turkey will join the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). This is yet another step towards embracing the political idea of “migration management”. At the same time, the decision means further expanding Turkey’s cooperation with EU member states with the aim to regulate and control migration into the EU – and into Turkey.

Continue reading Turkey has joined the ICMPD: What does this mean?

Counter-Narrative to the ‘European Dream’ – Syrian Refugees Stay in Turkey

By Garib MirzaGarib Mirza is a freelance researcher, whose studies focus on the ongoing conflict in Syria and recently on the Syrian refugees. He has worked for independent Syrian research centers and think tanks.

The European Dream

‘It’s Europe!’ a Syrian youth responded when a France 24 reporter asked him in 2014 why he and others set out on the arduous path to Europe. ‘It’s Europe!’ seems enough of an answer to the question and perhaps it is the best expression of many refugees’ and asylum seekers’ ‘European Dream’.

Continue reading Counter-Narrative to the ‘European Dream’ – Syrian Refugees Stay in Turkey

HAREKACT NEWSLETTER – IV

** German version below / Deutsche Version weiter unten **

This newsletter has been published as part of the bordermonitoring.eu newsletter, which is – for now – available in German only.

2nd YEAR OF THE EU-TURKEY DEAL

Two years after the signing of the EU-Turkey Deal, only one part of the monetary obligation has been fulfilled by the European side so far: The payment of 3 billion Euro to several agencies in Turkey. The main part of the agreement has not been fulfilled by the EU though, a fact that is being hardly discussed in Turkish media: visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens and renewed EU accession talks.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities keep proving that they are fulfilling their part of the legally questionable deal by arresting undocumented migrants in different border regions. In early March, Turkish authorities declared that they apprehended a total of 5.371 migrants just within one week. According another source, Turkish security forces stopped 50.000 people in 2017 at the land border with Bulgaria and Greece. Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) criticizes violent push-backs to Turkey conducted by Bulgarian authorities and Human Rights Watch scandalizes on-going illegal push-backs carried out by Turkish border guards on the border zone with Syria.

Regarding the situation on the Greek side, Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), an initiative supported by Pro Asyl, claims that the very poor reception conditions on the Greek islands are part of the deterrence policy against potential migrants coming from Turkey. Overcrowding, lack of infrastructure and gender-based violence against vulnerable individuals are some of the main problems in the hot spots. However, despite horrible conditions of reception and ongoing deportations from the Greek islands to Turkey, migrants continue to make the journey to the Greek islands daily crossing the sea in unseaworthy boats. Too often these journeys end deadly, as on March 17th when 16 people including at least 5 children drowned after their boat capsized. In this context, family members of the dead and missing are accusing the Greek authorities: Despite several calls for help by a relative, the authorities did not start a search and rescue operation for too long, thereby approvingly accepting their death.

By now, it is also Turkish citizens – mainly dismissed civil servants – who take the boats to Greece. According to Greek authorities, 1.800 Turkish nationals applied for asylum in Greece in 2017.

REFUGEE CHILDREN

In the Greek hot spots, where thousands of migrants are trapped in overcrowded camps and terrible conditions, most of the children have no access to formal education. The situation of refugee children is similarly problematical in Turkey. Apart from limited access to education, the legal status of the Syrian babies born in Turkey is uncertain. According to a report published by the Turkish Parliament’s Refugee Subcommittee, there are 311.000 babies of Syrian origin, born in Turkey but deprived of both Turkish and Syrian citizenship. Nevertheless, state news agency Anadolu announced that the International Pediatric Association (IPA) would give its International Peace Award to president Erdoğan for his contributions to the lives of refugee children.

THE AFRIN OPERATION AND REFUGEE CAMPS IN SYRIA

Apparently, the Turkish governments plans to deport a part of the Syrian refugees living in Turkey back to Syria. Already shortly after the start of Turkish military operation in Afrin, president Erdoğan said – while speaking to provincial leaders at his presidential palace – that “We are not in a position to continue hosting 3.5 million refugees forever. We’ll solve the situation in Afrin […] and we would like our refugee brothers and sisters to return to their own country”. Some journalists argue that this discourse is related to the increasing discontent among Turks towards Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Since the beginning of the Afrin offensive, resentments against Syrians in Turkey have been growing further. Considering this, it is not surprising that in early March Turkish authorities announced their will to set up camps for 170.000 displaced people in nine different regions within Syria, a country that is still in the middle of a war.

 

German Version

 

ZWEI JAHRE EU-TÜRKEI-DEAL

Zwei Jahre nach Unterzeichnung des EU-Türkei-Abkommens wurde von europäischer Seite bisher nur ein Teil der finanziellen Verpflichtungen erfüllt: die  Zahlung von drei Milliar  Euro an verschiedene Träger in der Türkei. Ein Großteil der Abmachungen wurde seitens der EU jedoch nicht eingehalten – worüber in den  türkischen Medien seltsamerweise kaum berichtet wird: die visafreie Einreise für türkische Staatsangehörige in die EU sowie die Fortführung und Vertiefung der Beitrittsgespräche.

Unterdessen beweisen die türkischen Behörden jedoch weiterhin, dass sie ihren Teil des flüchtlingsrechtlich fragwürdigen Abkommens erfüllen, indem sie Geflüchtete in verschiedenen Grenzregionen festnehmen. Anfang März gaben türkische Behörden an, innerhalb von nur einer Woche 5.371 Migrant_innen aufgegriffen zu haben. Laut einer anderen Quelle stoppten türkische Sicherheitskräfte im Jahr 2017 an der Landgrenze zu Bulgarien und Griechenland insgesamt 50.000 Menschen. Ärzte ohne Grenzen kritisiert gewaltsame Push-Backs in die Türkei, die von bulgarischen Grenzbeamt_innen durchgeführt werden, während die Menschenrechtsorganisation Human Rights Watch von anhaltenden illegalen Push-Backs durch türkische Grenzbeamt_innen an der Grenze zu Syrien berichtet.

Hinsichtlich der Situation auf griechischer Seite betont die von Pro Asyl unterstütze Initiative Refugee Support Aegean, dass die sehr schlechten Aufnahmebedingungen auf den griechischen Inseln Teil der europäischen Abschreckungspolitik gegenüber potentiellen irregulären Migrant_innen aus der Türkei sind. Überfüllung, unzulängliche Infrastruktur und geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt sind nur einige der Probleme in den Hotspots. Trotz der schrecklichen Aufnahmebedingungen und der anhaltenden Abschiebungen von den griechischen Inseln zurück in die Türkei versuchen weiterhin täglich Migrant_innen, in kaum seetauglichen Booten auf die griechischen Inseln zu gelangen. Nach wie vor enden viele dieser Reisen tödlich, so wie am 17. März, als 16 Menschen, darunter mindestens 5 Kinder, ertranken, nachdem ihr Boot gekentert war. Gegen die griechischen Behörden werden in diesem Zusammenhang seitens der Angehörigen massive Vorwürfe erhoben: Sie sollen den Betroffenen trotz vieler Hilferufe durch einen Verwandten nicht zur Hilfe geeilt sein und damit ihren Tod billigend in Kauf genommen haben.

Inzwischen beantragen auch immer mehr türkische Staatsbürger_innen – vor allem entlassene Beamt_innen –, Asyl in Griechenland. Nach Angaben griechischer Behörden stellten 2017 insgesamt 1.800 türkische Staatsangehörige einen Asylantrag.

 

DIE SITUATION GEFLÜCHTETER KINDER

In den griechischen Hotspots, wo Tausende Menschen in überfüllten Camps und unter schrecklichen Bedingungen ausharren müssen, haben die meisten Kinder keinen Zugang zu Bildung. Ähnlich problematisch ist die Situation geflüchteter Kinder in der Türkei. Abgesehen von dem begrenzten Zugang zu Bildung ist der rechtliche Status von in der Türkei geborenen syrischen Kindern oftmals ungeklärt. Laut einem Bericht des Flüchtlingsausschusses des türkischen Parlaments leben in der Türkei 311.000 Kinder syrischer Eltern, die in der Türkei geboren wurden, aber weder die türkische noch die syrische Staatsbürgerschaft erhalten. Dessen ungeachtet gab die staatliche Nachrichtenagentur Anadolu bekannt, dass die International Pediatric Association Präsident Erdoğan den Internationalen Friedenspreis für sein Engagement für Flüchtlingskinder verleihen werde.

 

DIE AFRIN-OPERATION UND DIE FLÜCHTLINGSLAGER IN SYRIEN

Offenbar plant die türkische Regierung, einen Teil der syrischen Geflüchteten im Land nach Syrien abzuschieben. Bereits kurz nach Beginn der türkischen Militäroperation in Afrin erklärte Präsident Erdoğan im Zuge von Gesprächen mit Lokalpolitiker_innen: „Wir sind nicht in der Lage, 3,5 Millionen Flüchtlinge für immer zu beherbergen. Wir werden die Situation in Afrin regeln […] und wir möchten, dass unsere geflüchteten Brüder und Schwestern in ihr eigenes Land zurückkehren.“ Einige Journalist_innen sind der Ansicht, dass derartige Aussagen in Zusammenhang mit der zunehmenden Unzufriedenheit in Teilen der türkischen Bevölkerung hinsichtlich der im Land lebenden syrischen Geflüchteten zu sehen sind. Seit Beginn der Afrin-Offensive sind die  Ressentiments gegenüber Syrer_innen sogar noch weiter angewachsen. Und so verwundert es auch nicht, dass türkische Behörden Anfang März verkündet haben, Flüchtlingslager für insgesamt 170.000 Vertriebene in neun verschiedenen Regionen Syriens errichten zu wollen – in einem Land, das sich nach wie vor im Krieg befindet

Das ist ein wenig verwirrend. Die 3 Milliarden wurden ja schon vor zwei Jahren zugesichert. Und jetzt nochmal? Das macht ja wenig Sinn. Wurde das Geld schon ausgezahlt oder haben sie jetzt nur nochmals zugesichert, dass sie es auch wirklich bezahlen werden? Und die 3 Milliarden sind ja auch nur die erste Tranche von insgesamt 6 Milliarden, richtig? Das wird in dem Absatz alles nicht so richtig klar…Und für was wurde das Geld überwiesen?

 

The (unseen) violent and forced push-backs on the Bulgarian-Turkish land border

Via Bordermonitoring Bulgaria – Last month (12th-14th February 2018) members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament were present in Bulgaria to collect objective first-hand information on the Bulgarian-Turkish land border. After the visit Marie-Christine Vergiat, the leader of the committee mentioned the technique of the Bulgarian border guards who are calling the Turkish collegues to avoid an ‚official push-back‘, which would mean a violation against the Non-refoulement principle: Continue reading The (unseen) violent and forced push-backs on the Bulgarian-Turkish land border

HAREKACT NEWSLETTER – III

** German version below / Deutsche Version weiter unten **

This newsletter has been published as part of the bordermonitoring.eu newsletter, which is – for now – available in German only.

EU-TURKEY DEAL

While approaching the second anniversary of the EU-Turkey Deal that was signed in March 2016, it continues to be disputed: Laura Batalla, the Secretary-General of the European Parliament Turkey Forum for example speaks of open questions “regarding its compliance with international law and the effective protection of refugees”. However, other EU institutions seem to be satisfied of its implementation: The EU ambassador in Turkey, Christian Berger declared that in the framework of the deal, 1.500 people have been returned from the Greek islands to Turkey and more than 11.700 people have been resettled to EU countries from Turkey by the end of 2017.

Continue reading HAREKACT NEWSLETTER – III

The Myth of Voluntary Deportations – “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” from Greece

By Muriel Schweizer and Valeria Hänsel

The number of people who agree to “voluntary” return from Greece to their country of origin with the programme of “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” of the “International Organization for Migration” (IOM) is significantly higher than the number of deportations to Turkey since the EU-Turkey statement.

What happens to migrants who sign up for the IOM return programme during the process and after the return to their home countries?            Why do asylum seekers agree to leave Europe again?

The observation of several cases reveals that many migrants face detention and serious physical and mental harm during and after their participation in the programme of “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration”.

Photo: IOM Greece

Continue reading The Myth of Voluntary Deportations – “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” from Greece