Harekact’s Weekly Digest 27/05/2019

14th – 27th May

Turkey is called upon to open the border as the bombardments displaced Syrians from Idlib area | Two more refugee camps in the south-east will soon be emptied | Syrians cross into Syria during Ramadan holiday to check what they have left behind | Arbitrary ill-treatment against lawyers visiting Harmandalı Removal Center | How EU-Turkey deal created prison islands to deter asylum-seekers


Widespread bombardment does not spare the civillians in Idlib area, Turkey is asked to open the border for more than 200,000 displaced:

The Syrian army’s attack, in coordination with the Russian alliance, on the northern province of Idlib escalated the humanitarian conditions in the area, killing dozens of civilians and forcing more than 200,000 people to flee over the past month. So far 18 hospitals have been damaged due to heavy shelling, more than fifteen people have been killed, and food prices have risen by up to 45 per cent as Independent reported. Arbitrary detentions and disappearances have also been occuring in areas retaken from anti-government groups. After a temporary ceasefire, the bombing resumed last Monday, leading civilians to flee from areas near the frontlines of the battle to towns and villages further north. – 22.05.2019

Reuters highlights the fact that the bombardment has widely hit a buffer zone around Idlib province and surrounding territories which was set up by Russia and Turkey in September under a deal which put off a full-blown assault against the region and its 3 million residents. During the bombardment a Turkish military observation post, one of 12 set up near the Idlib borders, was hit by shelling from the Syrian government. Many of the displaced people gathering at the border area are reported to be angry at the lack of Turkish action in response to the recent offensive, and called on Turkey to open its border to allow people to escape. – 22.05.2019

Turkey empties two more refugee camps hosting over 30 thousand refugees:

Two of the largest refugee camps in South-east Turkey, Ceylanpınar and Suruç camps are reportedly emptied nowadays. The two camps host 34,180 refugees from Syria, while around 10 thousand of them is said to have left the camps already. The officials from the camps who have spoke to Medyascope said that the reason of the closure is bad conditions in the camps with challenges to integration and financial costs; adding that a large proportion of the refugees leaving the camps prefer to relocate in the cities around while many of them have no option other than returning to Syria. -22.05.2019
Sputnik‘s coverage on the closure of the camps highlight that many refugees took shelter in the camp since 2015 after having to flee ISIS attacks. The refugees who were quoted in the report said that leaving the camp is difficult since they don’t know where to go, they cannot afford the rising rents, and they are afraid they will be forced to return to Syria. -21.05.2019

Recount on violent push-backs to Turkey: The Greek police has repeatedly been accused of pushing back asylum seekers to Turkey, several people who were fleeing from Turkey have reported. According to journalists who are following up the claimed push-backs, a number as high as 82 political asylum seekers from Turkey have been sent back to Turkey by Greek border units through northeastern Evros since April 23. The claims also add that groups of masked men with military uniforms and plain-clothed are collaborating with the police to beat those who are resisting the illegal practice. – 11.05.2019

Reports on Irregular border crossing attempts: InfoMigrants referring to Turkish authorities, claim that 636 migrants were stopped while attempting to cross into the European Union irregularly, 565 of them were intercepted at Edirne province. Although the sources are not cited, the report also mentions a car accident in the same area, in which 11 migrants were injured out of the 16 migrants who were travelling in the minibus. – 17.05.201

Arbitrary ill-treatment against lawyers visiting Harmandalı Removal Center: Lawyers of the Izmir Bar association, who recently made a statement calling authorities to take responsibilities in providing protection to refugees (cited previously by our weekly digest), were kept locked in Harmandalı Removal Center last week for two hours. Eight lawyers and an interpreter went to the detention center to provide legal aid for a family of İrani asylum seekers when the two doors of the interview room were locked. Their calls for help went unanswered, while they were able to hear some noises coming from outside. The treatment seems to be arbitrary as they were not given an explanation and they were later not provided with the client files they had asked for. The lawyers gave a press statement in front of the detention center the same day to declare that they would take legal actions against those responsible and that such ill-treatment against lawyers would not prevent their legal struggle in following the ongoing human rights abuses occurring in the detention center. – 20.05.2019


Syrians cross into Syria during Ramadan holiday to check what they have left behind : Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey are entitled to an administrative permit to visit their home-country for the Ramadan Eid. Since 24 May, around 6500 Syrians have crossed into Syria. As with previous years, reports on the numbers crossing to Syria have triggered racist comments on social media, with many asking “why they don’t stay in Syria if they can return?” Sivil Sayfalar, a website focused on humanitarian aid organizations consulted with stakeholders to report that the conditions of safety and return have not yet been constituted in Syria, particularly with the recent unrest in the Idlib area, and that people are visiting Syria to check on what they have left behind, rather than to celebrate the holiday. A humanitarian lawyer was also quoted as saying that some Syrians have been made to sign their “voluntary repatriation” forms instead of visit permissions.

How EU-Turkey deal created prison islands to deter asylum-seekers: Valeria Hänsel drafted an extensive report on the consequences of EU-Turkey deal via Lesvos island and Aegan sea crossings for Border Monitoring (full report available in German). The report claims that the Greek islands close to the Turkish coast have been transformed into ‘special legal zones’ and ‘open-air prisons’ where people have to wait for months and years for decisions on their asylum application and where asylum applications can be declared as inadmissible.  Moreover, people deported to Turkey are often at risk of imprisonment in Turkish removal centres and being deported back to their country of origin. As a result, she claims that the EU-Turkey deal, even though it has not been formally or legally codified, is a blueprint for the European externalisation of migration control to non-European third countries, in a way that is leading to a fundamental deprivation of rights for those seeking protection and to the erosion of the European asylum system.