European Union – Turkey: hard negotiations and tough bargaining for immigrants and refugees
Posted by clandestina on 14 January 2010
This short post is long due, but still usefull for anyone to understand why Turkey is not Libya, in other words, why the externalisation of Fortress Europe borders to Turkey is a stake in a complex and hard bargaining between the EU and the regional megapower (in which money is not everything for the latter).
According to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, the European Union is ready to offer political advantages to Turkey in exchange for signing a readmission agreement. We found out what readmission means for Turkey, when Oktay Durukan, member of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Turkey, analytically presented (in Greek) Turkey’s policies during the conference “Suspended people”, that took place in Thessaloniki on October 30th, 2009. It is worth pointing out a little known fact that was mentioned in the conference: Turkey can only offer asylum to European Union member state nationals!
Turkey was one of the countries that negotiated about the Refugee Status in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and was one of the first countries to sign it. However, Turkey has retained one of the Convention’s paragraphs, the so-called “geographical limitation”, thus still offering protection only to migrants involuntarily displaced “as a result of events in Europe”. Therefore and according to the aforementioned paragraph, Turkey welcomes only EU member states’ nationals as refuge applicants.
Third country nationals, also referred to as “non-Europeans”, claiming refugee status in Turkey have to apply in a Turkish police station for a “temporary asylum status” regardless of their application to UNHCR, which has to pre-exist. If they are arrested before managing to apply for refugee status, then they reach a dead end: the police will not accept an application for the temporary refugee status and consequently deny them access to any refugee status application at all.
The ”lucky” ones who are recognized as asylum seekers by the UNHCR are then dispersed across the country, hosted in 30 so-called “satellite towns”. There they live in average for two to three years while the final decisions on their requests for asylum and resettlement are pending. They are obliged to find shelter on their own and receive little assistance with regards to daily expenses or health-care. The chances for declared work are minimal thus many of them are forced into illegal work, mainly as sex workers. Last but not least, they are obliged to pay a resident fee in order to obtain a residence permit.
EU to grant visa flexibility in return for readmission agreement
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
BRUSSELS – Hürriyet Daily News
The European Union is reportedly ready to introduce some visa flexibility if Turkey signs a readmission agreement to tackle the flow of illegal immigrants to Europe.
The European Union and Turkey will discuss the readmission agreement again Dec. 4. Visa flexibility will be introduced once Ankara agrees to sign the agreement to deal with illegal immigration to Europe, a high-ranked official from the European Commission in Brussels has revealed.
“We will start the new round of discussions between [the commission] and Turkey on the readmission agreement in Ankara on Dec. 4,” a senior official from the commission said under condition of anonymity during a meeting with Turkish journalists. “This is certainly a critical issue.”
A significant number of people fleeing their poverty-stricken or war-torn countries of origin seek an opportunity to live in Europe. Turkey is the main route for thousands of illegal immigrants coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
The agreement would be binding for the entire union, as no individual solution is envisioned, the official said, adding that the financial burden would be shared. “The EU will grant support to Turkey to tackle the problem. We have expressed our readiness to look into all means to help,” the official said. “Of course we have budgetary limitations, but we are ready to help you.”
EU officials held the first round of talks Nov. 5 in Ankara to convince their Turkish counterparts to sign a readmission agreement. The EU member states, which apply a common asylum policy in line with the Dublin-2 Convention, have been seeking cooperation from candidate countries. According to Chapter 24 of negotiations between the EU and Turkey, Brussels is increasing pressure on Ankara with a call to adopt more deterrence measures or grant asylum to immigrants.
The readmission bargain may result in visa flexibility for Turkish citizens, the official said, adding, “As soon as the readmission agreement is signed, we will offer a lot of new opportunities in terms of visas.”
Some EU member countries set a pre-condition of readmission in order to facilitate visa-free travel, he said. “We cannot consider any visa facilitation with Turkey if we do not have a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey,” the official said. “Once we have a readmission agreement, we will be very open to negotiate visa facilitation. Journalists, academics, business people and scientists will be able to travel easily to the EU.”
After the European Court of Human Rights granted two Turkish drivers visa-free travel for business purposes, Turkish diplomats kicked off a campaign to widen visa flexibility in cooperation with business associations. Turkey advocates that the court ruling be applied to students, academics, artists, scientists and businessmen under the Customs Union agreement.
Germany has already introduced new regulations in line with the court verdict, but most of the other EU member states are still reluctant to take any further steps.
Last year, Turkey detained some 68,000 illegal immigrants attempting to make their way into the European Union. According to official statistics, up to 18,000 asylum seekers are waiting in Turkey for acceptance to a third country.
Existing Turkish regulations do not allow the country to grant asylum to people from outside the European Council member states.
PS: in April last year, in a case that received widespread publicity, 18 Syrians and Iranian citizens, including 5 recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, were forced by threat of weapons by Turkish soldiers to cross borders swimming through a non-guarded part of the river that separates Turkey from Iraq.
This is an example of a unilateral, ‘black’ expulsion of people to a third country they have nothing to do with. 4 of them died, including one Iranian of the recognized ones by the UNHCR . The latter condemned the incident in a press release, based on testimonies received by survivors. To date, however, no serious investigation into the incident has taken place.