“There is no basis for Syria being a safe country”

home Minister Hegard Garner (ÖVP) continues to call for discussions on repatriation to Syria. At the same time, trying to pass Brussels Refugee Treaties More recently, with countries with access to the Mediterranean LebanonRefugees must stop entering the EU.

Turkish international legal expert and migration researcher Neva Övünç Öztürk of Ankara University It says there is no basis for classifying Syria as a safe country of origin from a legal perspective. He criticizes the fact that the EU shirks its physical responsibility through such agreements and criticizes the oft-cited EU refugee deal with Turkey.

COURIER: Austria is considering classifying Syria as a safe country of origin for repatriating Syrian refugees. What do you think about this debate?

Neva Öztürk: Politicians cannot decide whether to classify Syria as a safe country of origin or to classify parts of Syria as alternative destinations for refugees. This is a legal matter.

Discussions began with Denmark, the first country to declare some areas near Damascus safe. Denmark relied on a report prepared by the Danish immigration authorities in collaboration with a non-governmental organization. It is highly controversial and has been heavily criticized by experts. The European Union provides standards for the evaluation of countries of origin.

Didn’t that happen in Denmark too?

No. One of the most widely cited and reliable sources of country information are reports from the European Union Agency for Asylum, and they say the situation in Syria is not there. fully Safe and secure. Even in conflict-free areas, there are risks for those returning to seek asylum in other countries. They face kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest. Hence this claim is not supported by legal facts.

Turkey is considered the world’s largest recipient of refugees, most of whom come from Syria. How did Turkey deal with the situation?

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When the civil war broke out in Syria, Turkey followed an open-door policy. Legally speaking, this is the right thing to do, because international law says that people cannot be returned to a place where their lives are threatened.

But it was assumed that the war would end soon and the people would soon return. This may be a false conclusion, probably due to inexperience, as Turkey has never faced so many refugees. and had redesigned its asylum system during that time. There is no clear integration policy for refugees and people to deal with them. This caused tension along with consequencesThe EU-Türkiye refugee deal led to stricter policies. For example, after 2016, some migrant accommodation centers were converted into deportation centers due to the repressive situation..

Officers were overwhelmedTen Refugees only because of lack of skills A Temporary instead of one Individual international protection status. To date, Syrian refugees are only allowed to leave the city they live in with a permit, so basic rights are restricted through this temporary protection status.

In recent election campaigns, Syrians have been made scapegoats for Turkey’s economic situation; The parties promised to repatriate the refugees. Is this already happening?

According to official figures, there have been few voluntary returns from Turkey to Syria in the north of the country, which is controlled by Turkey. However, this does not mean that these areas are safe. Accommodation and facilities are provided to the people there. However, we are skeptical about how voluntary withdrawal procedures are applied, as there is no comprehensive legal framework for them.

What impact has the EU’s 2016 refugee deal with Turkey had on the refugee situation?

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Ankara was mentioned in the 2016 Refugee Convention Irregular migrantsPeople trying to enter the EU from Turkey via the Greek islands should be turned back and people prevented from leaving the country. The EU provided financial assistance to asylum seekers, but no assistance in physical distribution. It got worse situation In TurkeyThe fundamental rights of the refugees were thereby compromised controlled.

(Note: By 2023, Turkey must receive nine billion euros from the EU for refugee accommodation and border security. Just 2,140 people arrived in Turkey from Greece between March 2016 and March 2020. (At the same time, the European Union specifically took in around 30,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey by August 2021.)


Neva Övünç Öztürk is a lawyer and migration researcher at Ankara University.

The agreement is often cited as a precedent for other refugee agreements, such as the more recent agreement with Lebanon. Do you see that as a success?

It depends on how you look at the topic. The EU is declaring success as the number of irregular migration from Turkey through the Greek islands has fallen.

However, according to UNHCR statistics, 85 arrived percent The PeoplePeople who crossed this route from conflict zones were therefore subject to international law and EU law Potential refugees. EU law requires resettlement to take place through a safe third country where asylum seekers are protected under the Refugee Convention. Aug. From this point of view the agreement was not a success. Because they are only detained in Turkey Temporary protectionGot status. The deal also deprived them of the opportunity to apply for asylum in Europe – as they had no other option than an irregular route to the EU.

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Meanwhile, deaths in the Mediterranean continue. Such agreements do not stop there.

So are you against such refugee deals?

In countries where the EU concludes such agreements based on its externalization policy, we see that the balance of security and freedom is tipped against the freedom of refugees and in favor of the security of people and treaty partners. Such agreements are highly restrictive in dealing with refugees.

It should be noted that Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia are signatory countries to the European Union and have not ratified the European Conventions on Human Rights. It is very risky to do business with these countries without confirmation on paper that the same basic rights as in the EU apply there.

Even Turkey, an official candidate for EU accession and represented in the European Council, saw how the country was engulfed by the deal. The result is a harsh regime that destroys the idea of ​​harmonizing EU asylum policy.

So how should the EU act?

Financial aid to neighboring countries in crisis and war zones makes sense because this is where most people are fleeing. But if these countries are overwhelmed by the number of refugees, our financial assistance is contrary to international security law. The EU is currently trying to outsource its responsibilities, think of the UK-Rwanda deal. There should be a fair and equitable distribution of physical responsibilities, such as the acceptance of refugees. There should be regular options for applying for protection.

However, there are currently no signs that the EU intends to change anything in its asylum policy. If she really cares about preventing people from dying in the Mediterranean, she needs to think about how to create regular routes that guarantee safety and freedom.

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