Category Archives: In Depth


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

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


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.


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

The Evolution of Afghan Migration in Istanbul

Afghan refugees work in an underground sweatshop in Zeytinburnu, Istanbul, Turkey.

By Yiğit Seyhan

For Afghan refugees, Turkey is seen either as a bridge to reach Europe or as a country of immigration in which they want to settle and join their friends and relatives. The continuation of war, conflict and poverty in Afghanistan pushes millions of them to seek a life in other countries. The beginning of Afghan immigration towards Turkey goes back to the first half of the 1980s. Turkish authorities initiated the settlement of a few thousand Afghan refugees with ‘Turkish origin and culture’, including Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Hazara origins. Turkey had already signed the Geneva Convention in 1951, but it still preserves the geographical limitation and thus does not give the refugee status to people coming from outside Europe. However, it also implements the 1934 Law on Settlement (İskan Kanunu) and uses the flexibility of this legal framework. According to this law, persons of Turkish ethnic descent and culture can immigrate, settle in Turkey and eventually receive Turkish citizenship. Such initiatives have contributed to the long-term settlement of Afghans in Turkey, and thus Turkey is perceived as a possible immigration country by Afghans. Continue reading The Evolution of Afghan Migration in Istanbul

Navigating complexity and contradiction: an interview with a Gambian businessman in Istanbul

By Helen Mackreath

Jahara Import-Export business is located in a Beyazit warehouse composed of roughly one hundred businesses, of which around ten are run by, or employ majority of, African workers from Senegal and Gambia. It is owned by Mehmud Kebbeh, a Gambian man who identifies as a migrant and a business-man.

I first met Mehmud as an interlocutor for a separate research project. As a British researcher our initial conversation encompassed discussions of some of his time spent in London and the relationship between our two countries, including the legacies of colonialism, as well as respective feelings about our “foreigner” status in Turkey. I spoke to him further to understand more about the warehouse as a space of transit, of multiple criss-crossing identities across nationality, class, gender, religion. Our conversation indicated multiple ways in which he navigates the overlaps between his business, religious and national identities; the importance of his import-export space as a social setting where migrants shed restrictive identifiers and share commonalities; and the multiple areas of hierarchy, exchange and isolation within the Gambian and Senegalese communities. Continue reading Navigating complexity and contradiction: an interview with a Gambian businessman in Istanbul

Seasonal Agricultural Labor in Turkey: The Case of Torbalı

Refugees are working in the cabbage field. Photo: Metehan Ud

by Dilan Taşdemir, Association of Bridging People

** Türkçe aşağıda – Turkish version below **

İzmir, a city where 120,000 registered refugees live, has a lot of meaning for refugees. For some, it is a stop on their way to Europe when passing over by boats, for others, it is a city they come to in order to find seasonal work on the fields.

Seasonal agricultural labor in Turkey is not an issue that started with Syrian refugees. For years, Kurdish workers, mostly coming from the east and southeast of Turkey, have been working in agricultural areas in the Aegean, Çukurova, at the Black Sea and in Central Anatolia. There have been dozens of academic studies, news and documentaries on this issue, and it is still being studied today. In every respect, seasonal agricultural labor is a great burden to workers and must be considered as injustice. Continue reading Seasonal Agricultural Labor in Turkey: The Case of Torbalı

“We are not looking for providing jobs at home. We are aiming to create a safe environment or safe jobs outside of our houses.”

Syrian Women’s multiple burden at the labour market and at home.

by Rejane Herwig

Often imagined to be Syrian women’s only profession in Turkey: sewing at home.

The living conditions of Syrians in Turkey are for a majority very poor and tend to have a negative effect on a psychological as well as a physical level. Looking at those through a gender lens renders visible that such circumstances often have even more severe effects on women. Continue reading “We are not looking for providing jobs at home. We are aiming to create a safe environment or safe jobs outside of our houses.”

Dubious Deportations to Turkey Prevented!

Author: Valeria Hänsel

On Thursday, 23rd November 2017, the deportation of two migrants was stopped last minute. The two men from Iran and Afghanistan were held in detention on Lesvos Island. Shortly before they were transported to the harbour of Mytilene to be quietly deported to Turkey via ferry, lawyers and activists managed to intervene and stop the deportation of the two men. Eight other people from Haiti, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Pakistan were however deported and will be detained in Turkey, among them a family with a small child.

For the two cases that were stopped, there were serious doubts about the lawfulness of the deportation practice. Alireza Kamran[1] from Iran is suffering from severe health problems while Tarik Chian from Afghanistan was prevented from exhausting his legal remedies in Greece. The names and cases of the other deportees were not known to the lawyers and activists monitoring the deportation. Therefore the legality of their deportation cannot be assessed but it is doubted that the persons concerned have received sufficient support to challenge second instance rejections.

Continue reading Dubious Deportations to Turkey Prevented!

Central Asian migrants in Turkey at risk of being labelled as terrorists

People in the neighborhood of Zeytinburnu, in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2017. Photo: Oscar Durand

By Umar Farooq

Turkish police conduced more than 1,400 raids across the country in a single week this November, with officials saying 6,890 people were detained for undocumented immigration, and 1,167 for suspicion of belonging to terror groups, either the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Islamic State, or the Fetullah Terror Organization, which Ankara blames for an attempted coup in July 2016.

While more than 50,000 people have been charged with some crime related to that coup attempt since last year, little attention is given to what happens to thousands of those detained over suspected ties to the Islamic State, especially those who risk deportation back home to countries with a dismal human rights record. Continue reading Central Asian migrants in Turkey at risk of being labelled as terrorists

Second HarekAct Newsletter out!

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

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

EU-Turkey Deal 

The EU Commission has presented its 7th report on the EU-Turkey deal in September – and celebrates that, according to their estimation, still relatively few refugees arrive in Greece, while almost 10,000 Syrians have been resettled in the EU. In the light of the more than three million Syrians having found their way into Turkey, 10,000 people is a ludicrously little contribution of a political community of 500 million EU citizens. We have already reported on the negative consequences of the dirty deal in our first newsletter.

Continue reading Second HarekAct Newsletter out!

Traces of migration flow at the Bulgarian-Turkish border

Via Bordermonitoring Bulgaria – Yesterday, on the 20th of October 2017 the Defence Minister of Bulgaria Krassimir Karakachanov stated that ladders had been used to climb the fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. On the same day the minister said to BGNews that the fence is 100% finished and has to be “upgraded with relevant sensors [and] cameras“. Days before, photos were circulating in the Bulgarian media showing a large hole underneath the fence, which were leading to a bigger discussion in the Bulgarian parliament and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has called for the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov. Since 2016, the Bulgarian parliament voted for using the army at the Bulgarian borders to guard it, but since then it was used only partly.

refugees climbing the fence

Continue reading Traces of migration flow at the Bulgarian-Turkish border