HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 21/03/2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Harek-Logo_long-1.png

EU-Turkey Deal, three years on | “The European Refoulement Industry at Sea” | Anti-Syrian election campaigning | Against Racial Discrimination | Eight years on from conflict in Syria | A special Issue of International Migration Journal: Syrian Refugees –Facing Challenges, Making Choices


EU-TURKEY DEAL: Three Years On

18 March 2019 marked three years since the controversial EU-Turkey ‘Deal’ was enacted. A number of NGOs have released statements to mark the anniversary in which they denounce the inhumane repercussions and immeasurable human cost of the deal. As a result of the deal, more than 20,000 people are being contained on Greek island ‘hotspots’, more than half of whom are women and children.

Twenty-five non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and Refugee Rights Europe, wrote an open letter to European leaders describing policies and practices resulting from the deal as “short-sighted, ineffective and dangerous”.

Refugee Support Aegean describes the “unbearable imprint” left by the deal and highlights how dire conditions in the Greek islands’ refugee camps prove the “immense human cost of this cruel and toxic ‘deal’ in the forms of loss of freedom; real risk of being returned to a country that is not safe for them; inhuman living conditions; and severe impact on their mental and/or physical health.” Their full statement can be read here.

MSF urges the immediate evacuation of all vulnerable people from the island hotspots. They describe how “thousands of people are trapped in overcrowded, dirty and unsafe conditions, deteriorating their health and well-being” and deplore Greek and European leaders for failing to provide care. Their full statement can be read here.

Amnesty International projected a sign reading “Humanity First, Refugees Welcome” onto the side of the Acropolis to send a message to European leaders.

EU-Turkey Statement: A Legal Analysis In the Third Year” is a new contribution by Turkish academics Neva Övünç Öztürk and Cavidan Soykan (in Turkish). They describe how the three-year process legally indicates ‘uncertainty’ in contrast to the human rights law on which the deal is based, which is directly related to the institution of readmission, which is based on the principle of ‘certainty’.

Sea-crossings in the Mediterranean: “The European Refoulement Industry at Sea”

Frontex have released a report about the informal crossings they intercepted in the Eastern, Western and Central Mediterranean and the Balkan route. The militarised border protection body states that:
– In February, the number of detections of informal border crossings on Europe’s four main migratory routes fell 58 percent from the previous month to 3,560, in large part due to poor weather conditions in parts of the Mediterranean Sea.
– Two out of every five detected migrants in this corridor were nationals of Afghanistan, usually arriving by sea. One out of every five was of Turkish nationality, mainly crossing the land border.

Alarm Phone have released a six week report which documents 282 counted fatalities in the Mediterranean this year, developments in all three Mediterranean regions and summaries of 29 Alarm Phone distress cases. They describe a ‘refoulement industry’ which has emerged in the Central Mediterranean, “where a range of authorities collude to abduct those escaping at sea and to return them into inhumane camps where severe atrocities are being committed daily”.

Anti-Syrian sentiment on the rise during Municipality Election

Candidates for opposition parties in Turkey are running on anti-immigration and anti-Syrian platforms as part of their campaigning for the forthcoming municipal elections, due to be held on 31 March. The campaign slogan for the candidate for right-wing IYI Party in Fatih district (a conservative neighborhood in Istanbul with a high presence of Syrians and other nationals) is – “I won’t hand over Fatih to Syrians.” After some reactions on social media, she responded to a journalist: “The priority of the elderly, of employers, shopkeepers and mothers are Syrians. I am considering this problem, and I expressed my opinion in that banner”. The Turkish outlet Duvar ran a report about it (in Turkish).

Against Racial Discrimination

On 16th of March Saturday, anti-racist demonstrators took the streets in England, Ireland, Australia, Germany and Greece. In Turkey, the group Hepimiz Göçmeniz – Irkçılığa Hayır (“We are all Refugees – No to Racism”) organized panels in Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara and Tekirdag to engage with the day, discussing different manifestations of racisms and ways to combat it.

On the same theme, Professor Dr. Ülkü Doğanay gave an interview to Bianet (in Turkish) in which she discusses racism and the language of discrimination developed particularly in the case of Syrians. She highlights how forms of racism operate through identity, culture, gender, language, political opinion, lifestyle, religion, disability or any other feature; how social media is fuelling this hatred; and how both government and opposition outlets are sharing the common trait of refusing to treat Syrians as ‘refugees’.


Eight Years on from Conflict in Syria

A number of relevant articles have been written to mark this unhappy milestone. An English translation of an Arabic article “In Homs, “re-embracing the Homeland” for Al-Jumhuriya, describes the practical and moral compromises forced upon Syrians now living under the regime against which they rebelled.

“Retreat, reconcile, resist” recounts a year’s worth of Syrian stories from Deraa to Raqqa, Beirut to Berlin. This describes “the ways in which Syrians are grinding onward in pursuit of some semblance of progress, however slow and imperceptible. That determination takes many forms, from low-key civic activism to a basic but powerful drive to understand and bear witness to Syria’s transformations.”

An interview with Raed Fares, recorded at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2017 in which he describes what the Syrian revolution means to him, Raed was assassinated in northern Syria on 23 November by masked gunmen suspected of being affiliated with Al-Qaeda.


A new report has been produced by Badael, an organisaton supporting grassroots peacebuilding and human rights activism, entitled “Syrian Women’s Perspectives on Life in Turkey: Rights, Relations and Civil Society”. The report stresses the importance of promoting a rights-based approach to the refugee issue in Turkey, focusing on the often-neglected experiences and perspectives of Syrian women.

A special Issue of International Migration Journal entitled “Syrian Refugees – Facing Challenges, Making Choices” has been published in Vol. 57/2. This includes a number of relevant articles, including whether transnational activities of Syrian refugees in Turkey are hindering or supporting integration; the effects of Syrians on voting behavior in Turkey; on making ‘The Other’ through refugee hospitality in Lebanon and Turkey; and “A Faithful Alliance between Civil Society and the State” discussing how actors and mechanisms are accommodating Syrian refugees in Istanbul.