B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Manlio Di Stefano, rapporteur
1. While European Union member
States are increasingly focusing on strengthening their external
borders in order to prevent inflows of irregular migrants and asylum
seekers from troubled areas in Asia and Africa, Syria’s closest
neighbours continue to receive and host millions of refugees who
now make up a large proportion of the population living on their
2. Jordan has the highest refugee-to-population ratio (30%);
in December 2017, it was hosting more than 2.8 million registered
refugees out of a total population of 9.5 million. Lebanon is host
to 1.8 million refugees and has a total population of 6 million.
In Turkey, 3.6 million registered refugees are hosted by the country, which
has a total population of 82.3 million. Finally, in Iraq, over 500 000
refugees should be added to the 1.5 million internally displaced
persons (IDPs). This short overview illustrates the scale of the
problem which, regrettably, is largely overlooked by the European
The Parliamentary Assembly has, to its credit, devoted due
attention to the humanitarian situation in the region since its
dramatic deterioration in 2011. It has prepared a number of reports
and recommendations addressed to Council of Europe member States
and the international community with a view to tackling the consequences
of the humanitarian tragedy. Resolution
on a stronger European response to the Syrian refugee
crisis and Resolution
“Syrian refugees: how to organise and support international assistance?”
are of direct relevance to the present report. Some adopted texts,
while not dealing directly with the humanitarian situation in the
region, are most relevant to different aspects of the humanitarian
plight of refugees and they include: Resolution 2164 (2017)
on possible ways to improve the funding of emergency refugee
on the situation of refugees and migrants under the
EU–Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016; Resolution 2089 (2016)
on organised crime and migrants; Resolution 2099 (2016)
on the need to eradicate statelessness of children;
and Resolution 2136 (2016)
on harmonising the protection of unaccompanied minors
4. From 14 to 16 June 2015, during the peak of the refugee and
migration crisis, the ad hoc committee of the Bureau led by the
then President of the Assembly went to Istanbul, Kilis and Gaziantep
in Turkey with a view to raising awareness of the parliamentarians
on the challenges facing Turkey and refugees hosted in the country,
paying particular attention to the needs and conditions in the refugee
camps at the border with Syria.
5. The present report stems from a motion tabled by myself and
other members one year ago with the aim of looking more closely
into possible ways of improving reception conditions in the region,
including increased contributions from the European countries. Regrettably,
the situation has not improved over the last year and as the war
in Syria continues, the capacity of its neighbours to accommodate
and assist so many refugees is stretched beyond the limits, even
with international assistance.
6. In the present report, I intend to give a detailed overview
of the humanitarian situation of refugees in the four adjacent countries,
and in the broader region with short reference to the context and
historical background of the current tragedy. I will focus on reception
conditions and social and economic rights of refugees. I will take stock
of any relevant legislation and its implementation in the four countries.
I will also look more closely into the role played by the international
community and in particular by the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
and other United Nations agencies, as well as by international and
national civil society. I will try to identify the outstanding humanitarian
concerns with a view to recommending measures aimed at improving
the situation. I will also try to contribute to the general reflection
on possible sustainable solutions for refugees in the region.
7. Given the Migration Committee’s involvement in the Parliamentary
Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children, I will review
– without duplicating the work of our General Rapporteur on the
Campaign – the situation in Syria’s neighbouring countries in this
respect. I will also pay particular attention to other vulnerable
groups of refugees.
8. As there are a number of reports under preparation in the
Migration Committee which relate to different aspects of refugees’
plight in general, such as “Family reunification in the Council
of Europe member States”; “Human rights impacts of the ‘external
dimension’ of the European Union”; “The legal and practical requirements
for extra-territorial processing of asylum claims”; “Refugees and
migrants as an easy target for trafficking and exploitation”; and
“Stop violence and exploitation of migrant children”, I will try
to be careful not to interfere with my colleagues’ respective mandates.
Whenever I feel it appropriate, I will refer the reader to the relevant
9. During the preparation of this report, I have used a variety
of sources for information. The Committee held an exchange of views
with the Assembly’s partner for democracy parliamentary delegation
from Jordan in December 2017. As a follow up to this discussion,
the committee received an invitation from the Jordanian Parliament
and held a meeting in Amman on 21 and 22 March 2018. Apart from
a very interesting hearing on the situation of migrants and refugees
in Jordan and in the region, the committee held an exchange of views with
the Jordanian authorities responsible for refugee issues and visited
the Zataari Camp. I would like to use this opportunity to thank
the Jordanian delegation for the excellent organisation of the meeting,
and the UNHCR – the Organisation’s representative in the Council
of Europe, and the Jordanian and Regional Offices – for their most
valuable contribution to the discussions and to the visit of the
10. The hearing which was organised during the 2018 April part-session,
with the participation of representatives of the Turkish authorities
responsible for refugees in Turkey, provided the members of the committee
with an insight into the situation in this country.
11. Finally, in the drafting of this report, I am relying on reports
and information provided to me by the network of our external partners
including international organisations and international and local
2 Background and context of the refugee
crisis following the 2011 war in Syria
Even before the outbreak of
armed hostilities in Syria, the entire region was one of the areas
with the densest population of refugees and their ascendants in
the world. The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the subsequent
1948 war generated one of the biggest and longest lasting refugees
waves of more than 700 000 Palestinians. The 1967 war displaced
some of them for the second time and added to the numbers. Today,
there are approximately five million Palestinian refugees and their
descendants registered by UNRWA in the region. The majority live
in areas adjacent to Israel; mostly in Jordan (2.1 million), Lebanon
(463 000) and Syria (up until 2012 – 543 000).Note
There have also been sizeable
numbers of Palestinian refugees living in Iraq (up until May 2006
– 34 000) and Egypt (50 000).
13. The Palestinian refugees constitute a particular type of refugee.
The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees contains
specific provisions that exclude from its benefits those Palestinians
who are refugees as a result of the 1948 or 1967 Arab-Israeli conflicts
and who are receiving protection or assistance from UNRWA which
became operational in 1950. In fact, UNRWA has its own definition
of Palestinian refugees as persons whose place of residence was
Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost both home and
livelihood as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflicts, as well as
their direct descendants.
14. As a result of this narrow definition, all other Palestinians
who do not fall under this category are not automatically considered
as refugees and often do not have refugee status. This includes
158 000 Palestinians who fled to Jordan from the Gaza Strip, 3 000
to Lebanon, and 100 000 to Iraq in the wake of the 1967 war (they
are referred to as ex-Gazans),
15. Registered Palestinian refugees enjoy varied degrees of integration
in different countries ranging from full citizenship rights in Jordan,
to the same rights as the local population except citizenship in
Syria, to statelessness and denial of many basic rights in Lebanon.
I will look into this issue in more detail when dealing with the
situation in specific countries.
16. Over time, UNRWA’s mandate has evolved to focus on four main
programmes: education, health, relief and social services, and microfinance.
It employs 28 000 national Palestinian staff members and runs its
own schools and hospitals. It operates one of the largest school
systems in the Middle East, teaching nearly half a million children
in over 700 schools and providing vocational training for young
people. UNRWA also delivers basic health services through a network
of health-care facilities and clinics. It also provides social protection services,
basic food supplies and cash subsidies for the most vulnerable Palestinian
refugees. At the same time UNRWA provides income-generating opportunities.
17. The region has witnessed many other forced population movements.
The Lebanese civil war (1975-1991) led to the departure of 25% of
the Lebanese population. The First Gulf War of 1990-1991 forced
a big wave of 350 000 refugees, mainly to Jordan. The majority of
them were Palestinian refugees with Jordanian citizenship. The Second
Gulf War and the collapse of Hussein’s regime in Spring 2003, in
particular its most violent phase in 2006-2007 brought to the region
several hundred thousand refugees from Iraq, who were mainly Iraqis.
In total, the armed conflict in Iraq since 2003 has produced an
estimated six million refugees and a similar number of IDPs. The
war in Yemen has also produced mass displacement and the present
actions of the Saudi Arabian Government in this country are adding
to the plight of refugees and should be strongly condemned. Furthermore,
the situation in Turkey has also been characterised – irrespective
of the large number of refugees from the region residing in the
country – by a large number of IDPs amongst the Kurdish population.
18. These forced population movements of people remaining in protracted
displacement have put enormous strain on the infrastructures of
Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and have resulted in an almost
permanent presence of international organisations assuring relief
aid to, and governance of this refugee population.
19. Against this background, the outbreak of the conflict in Syria,
in March 2011, has resulted in some 11 million refugees who have
fled the country and there are some 6.1 million IDPs. A large number
have left for the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan
or Iraq; others have travelled further on to North Africa, to Europe,
and to other countries.
In 2015, a considerable deterioration of reception conditions
pushed thousands of Syrian refugees from Turkey to cross the Aegean
Sea and reach the Greek islands on their way to other regions of
Europe. In one year, over one million people made this perilous
journey, and more than 4 000 of them lost their lives. The conclusion
of the EU–Turkey Deal in March 2016 and its consequences are the
subject of two Parliamentary Assembly reports on “The situation
of refugees and migrants under the EU–Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016”
and “Human rights implications of the European response to transit
migration across the Mediterranean” (Resolutions 2109 (2016)
21. Deteriorating conditions are leading some Syrian refugees
to return home on a voluntary basis despite the UNHCR’s clear position
against these attempts.
22. While the overall generosity of neighbouring countries which
have hosted the vast majority of Syrian refugees should be praised,
in 2017, many kept their borders closed or even returned refugees,
including on an involuntary basis. Turkey turned away 250 000 Syrians
between January and October 2017. The border remains closed except
for critical medical cases, and the authorities are building a 911
km wall along its border with Syria. In Jordan, the authorities
have denied entry to as many as 50 000 refugees and the border remains closed
to all but exceptional medical cases. According to Human Rights
Watch, in the first five months of 2017, the country also deported
around 400 registered Syrian refugees each month. Lebanon also returned
around 10 000 Syrian refugees in 2017 following a security operation.
23. According to the UNHCR, there are at present over 5.3 million
registered Syrian refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries. Between
75%-90% of them live below the poverty line. More than 2.5 million
require continuous food assistance. The percentage of out-of-school
Syrian refugee children across the region has increased from 34%
in December 2016 to 43% in June 2017. Households report difficulties
accessing health care because of the cost, unavailability of the
service or distance to the service. Unemployment continues to be
a problem in the neighbouring host countries, with official statistics
ranging between 11% and 16%.
24. Outstanding concerns relating to respect for human rights
of refugees, relevant legislation, living conditions and access
to services as well as to management, funding and prospects for
the future will be reviewed in more detail with regard to specific
countries in the next chapter.
in neighbouring countries
25. At the end of March 2018, there
were over 740 000 refugees registered by the UNHCR in Jordan. 661 859
originating from Syria (including 16 000 Palestinian refugees until
now living in Syria), 65 822 from Iraq, 9 447 from Yemen, 4 036
from Sudan, and almost 1 000 from Somalia. These refugees should
be added to the 2.1 million long-term Palestinian refugees registered
by UNRWA. The total figure of over 2.8 million people makes up almost
30% of the entire 9.5 million population of Jordan.
26. 52% of refugees coming from Syria are minors below the age
of 17; 1% of them are unaccompanied. In 2017 alone, 24 000 Syrian
children were born in Jordan.
27. Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention and
its Protocols. However, the right to asylum is enshrined in the
Jordanian Constitution. Its Article 21.1 stipulates that extradition
of political refugees persecuted in their countries on account of
their political beliefs or for their defence of liberty is forbidden.
28. Law No. 24 of 1973 on residence and foreigners’ affairs stipulates, inter alia, that refugees entering
the country irregularly will not be prosecuted. They are required
to present themselves to a police station within 48 hours of their
arrival. Article 31 of this Law grants the Minister of the Interior
the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis whether a person
who has entered illegally is eligible for refugee status. Regrettably,
it does not identify any criteria for eligibility which allows for
a large amount of discretion when making the assessment.
29. In 1998, the Jordanian authorities signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with the UNHCR on the principles of co-operation with
regard to asylum seekers. The Memorandum makes reference to the
Geneva Convention’s definition of refugees and allows the UNHCR
to conduct status determination procedure within seven days (in
exceptional cases the deadline may be extended up to one month.
In practical terms, since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria,
refugees crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border who seek asylum and
access to UNHCR services in Jordan are automatically recognised
as prima facie refugees. According to the Memorandum, refugees can
remain in Jordan for six months after recognition during which time
the UNHCR has to find a resettlement country for them. Again, in
practice, Jordan has not enforced this period with respect to Syrian
30. According to the UNHCR, there is currently no backlog of Syrians
awaiting registration. Newly arrived Syrian refugees can now register
with the UNHCR in two register centres (one of them in Amman and
the second in Irbid, close to the Syrian border) upon first contact
the same day. However, there are very few newly arriving refugees
due to the entries restrictions.
31. While in the immediate wake of the outbreak of the Syrian
conflict, Jordanian generously opened their border to refugees,
very soon the entries were restricted, firstly, as early as 2012
for Palestinian and Iraqi refugees from Syria, and secondly, as
of 2013, for all Syrians, raising security concerns. As a result,
up to 100 000 people are stranded in the desert no man’s land between
Jordan and Syria.
32. No constitutional or other law deals with refugees’ social
and economic rights. Although refugees do not automatically acquire
the right to residency, employment, public education or health care,
they can apply for it. Residence permits are usually valid for one
year and are granted in small numbers to refugees. According to the
UNHCR, only 30% of Iraqi refugees have been granted residence permits,
and 160 000 Syrians are staying in Jordan illegally.
33. Access to health care is not free except for Syrian refugees
who have an identity card (for people over seven years of age the
card costs US$7 per year).
34. Access to work is limited to those who have residence cards
and only to specific sectors. The Jordanian Ministry of Labour regularly
publishes a list of professions and industries in which only Jordanian
citizens are allowed to work and these include medical, engineering,
administrative, accounting and clerical professions, telephone and
warehouse employment, sales, education, hairdressing, decorating,
fuel sales, electrical and mechanical occupations, guards, drivers
and construction workers.
35. While Syrian refugees get regular work permits, a number of
challenges still persist and should be addressed to increase their
opportunities to get legal employment. In particular, Syrian refugees
are included in foreigners’ quotas imposed on employers. Given the
large number of migrant workers in Jordan (see paragraph 43), this
creates a real obstacle for Syrian refugees’ access to work.
36. Access to education is also limited to children whose parents
have a residence card and subject to a school fee applicable to
foreigners. Again, children of Syrian refugees have free access
37. Fewer than 20% of registered Syrian refugees reside in camps
(131 666 people), yet since mid-2014 some access to services such
as free access to health-care centres is not possible outside of
38. During our meeting in Amman, all the members of the Migration
Committee had the opportunity to visit Zaatari, the biggest refugee
camp in Jordan, hosting 80 000 refugees. Since its opening in July
2012, the camp has seen a dramatic increase in its population, which
in March 2013 reached 156 000. Since then, two other refugee camps
have been opened in Jordan. Zaatari is gradually evolving into a
permanent settlement with shops and services. It is run by the Jordanian
authorities in co-operation with the UNHCR. Other United Nations agencies
and international organisations provide services.
39. In the camp, we visited community centres offering a wide
range of activities for children and other targeted groups, a library,
and a supermarket operating with blockchain technology. According
to the information that we received, the latter allows for important
savings and more efficient use of available resources.
40. Residents of refugee camps in Jordan are provided with delivery
of food and water, free electricity, and they can earn additional
money in the framework of “work for cash” programme being employed
– on a rotation basis – within the camp, they have access to health
care and education. They are free to move and many of them work
outside the camp.
41. Despite the fact that Syrian refugees enjoy a somewhat privileged
status as compared to other refugees, it is estimated that 81% of
them live under the poverty line. This precarious humanitarian situation
is at the origin of many voluntary returns which are not recommended
by the UNHCR because of security concerns. So far, approximately
30 000 Syrians have returned. The humanitarian plight of the refugees
is also a push factor for undertaking a perilous journey across
the Mediterranean to Europe.
42. The massive inflow of Syrian refugees has put enormous strain
on the Jordanian economy. According to the information that I received
from the relevant authorities in Amman, during the past two years
the economic growth of Jordan has dropped to 2.1%, which amounts
to only one third of what should have been the natural growth rate.
4% of national gross domestic product (GDP) (US$3.5 billion) is
being spent on the needs of refugees. This situation is negatively
affecting the situation of the local population.
43. Concerning long-term Palestinian refugees, Nationality Law
No. 6 of 1954, in its Article 2, grants Jordanian nationality to
all Palestinians registered by UNRWA who lived in Jordan between
1949 and 1954. As a result, a majority of long-term Palestinian
refugees have acquired Jordanian citizenship, enjoy the same rights
as the local population and can hardly be considered as “refugees”
in the sense of the Geneva Convention definition. However, the so-called
ex-Gazans mentioned in paragraph 15 do not hold Jordanian nationality
but temporary passports. They face a number of restrictions concerning
property ownership, political inclusion and obtaining driving licences.
This group of 158 000 people is considered to be one of the most vulnerable
segments of the Palestinian community in Jordan.
44. Approximately 17% of registered Palestinian refugees live
in 10 official camps and three unofficial camps in addition to their
surrounding areas. UNRWA provides Palestinian refugee children with
basic education following the Jordanian curriculum in a network
of 171 schools which are located throughout the country for over
121 000 students. Furthermore, UNRWA offers comprehensive outpatient
primary health-care services in 25 health-centres and four mobile
dental clinics across Jordan.
45. It is also worth mentioning that Jordan has received a lot
of labour migrants from the region, both regular and irregular.
According to the estimates of the Ministry of the Interior, between
500 000 and 700 000 Syrian workers were already residing in Jordan
before the conflict as well as 636 000 Egyptians and 634 000 Palestinians.
Some Syrian economic migrants were forced to remain in Jordan after
the outbreak of military conflict and thus became refugees.
46. Lebanon has a large number
of refugees. In 2015, the UNHCR estimated the number of Syrian refugees alone
(including Palestinian refugees from Syria) at 1 835 840, with 50%
of them being minors. In the report issued by the Humanitarian Aid
and Civil Protection Department of the European Commission in October
2015, the number of Palestinian refugees was estimated at 295 000
and of Iraqi refugees at 17 000. The total population of the country
amounts to six million people.
47. Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention and
its 1967 Protocol. It has no domestic legislation specifically dealing
with refugee issues.
48. The Law of 1962 on the Entry and Residence of Foreigners deals
with the question of asylum seekers. In its Article 26, it provides
for every person who is persecuted in their own country for political
reasons to have the right to seek asylum in Lebanon. Article 31
stipulates that if a decision to expel a political refugee has been made
it is not permissible to deport such a refugee to the territory
of a State where his life or freedom are not secured. A specific
law on residence was adopted in 2015.
49. In the absence of a national law on refugees, a Memorandum
of Understanding was signed between the UNHCR and the Government
of Lebanon in September 2003. It provides a mechanism “for the issuing
of temporary residence permits to asylum seekers”. Under the terms
of the Memorandum, the temporary residence permit is valid for three
months, extendable to six and nine months, allowing the UNHCR to
find a durable solution for the refugee in question.
50. In January 2015, specific instructions applicable to the entry
of Syrian refugees into Lebanon have been published by the General
Directorate of General Security. They assign different lengths of
stay and require different supporting documentation renewing temporary
residence permits by Syrian refugees holding UNHCR certificates.
51. The legal status of all refugees in Lebanon lacks certainty.
The existing legal instruments are inadequate and insufficient.
A 2010 report by the UNHCR states that “refugees enjoy few, if any,
legal rights in Lebanon”.
52. The material situation of refugees in Lebanon is very difficult.
According to estimations, 65% of “long date” Palestinian refugees
and 89% of Palestinians arriving in recent years from Syria live
under the poverty line. According to the census records of Palestinian
refugees conducted in 2017, 174 422 live in 12 camps and 156 gatherings.
The remaining 125 000 live outside these places. The majority encounter
problems with identification papers and residence permits. The overall
material situation of “long date” Palestinian refugees has steadily
deteriorated over recent years. It should be considered, however,
in a broader context of the socio-economic situation of the local
population as a whole. The standard of living in Lebanon is very
low in numerous communities and the number of vulnerable Lebanese
in need of basic assistance is estimated by the UNHCR at 1.03 million.
53. The situation of Syrian refugees is not much better. 74% of
those aged 15 and over do not have a residence card.
54. Syrian refugees – whether possessing a residence card or not
– have access to the health system. Palestinian refugees from Lebanon
and Syria can benefit from the UNRWA health infrastructure.
55. Access to education is very problematic. Even if in theory
all refugee children can attend schools free of charge in the afternoons
(so-called “second shift”), in practice, schools are overcrowded
and places are lacking; transport and school materials are expensive
and there is a language barrier. As a result, around 280 000 Syrian
children do not attend school. The situation is better for Palestinian
refugees from Lebanon and Syria as they can use UNRWA’s education
56. Access to work has been facilitated for Syrian refugees since
2015; they can obtain work permits in some sectors if they renounce
their claim to social assistance granted to refugees.
57. There are 3.7 million refugees
in Turkey, a country with a population of 82.8 million. 3.2 million
are Syrians, while the others come mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan,
Iran and Somalia. 1.6 million of them are minors. Over the past
two decades, many years before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict,
Turkey has emerged as a transit country for refugees and irregular
migrants, and changed from a country of emigration to one of immigration.
58. Turkey has signed the 1951 Geneva Convention with a geographical
limitation restricting the scope of the Convention’s application
“only to persons who have become refugees as a result of events
occurring in Europe”. As a consequence, Turkey can only legally
accept European asylum seekers as refugees sensu stricto even
though the absolute majority of asylum seekers in Turkey originate
from non-European States, in particular from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan,
Somalia and Sudan, and, since 2011, from Syria.
59. In practice, however, Turkey allows the UNHCR to operate and
conduct refugee status determination procedures whereby refugee
status is jointly granted by the UNHCR and the Ministry of the Interior
on the condition that a refugee is resettled to a third country
within six months. The UNHCR runs status determination procedures
for non-European and non-Syrian applicants.
60. Before the adoption, in 2014, of the Temporary Protection
Regulation, protection afforded to Syrians fleeing to Turkey was
in the form of an ad hoc solution. Since 2014, they can apply for
temporary protection to the Turkish authorities, and based on vulnerability
and other criteria, they may be referred – in co-operation with
the UNHCR – for resettlement to a third country.
61. In 2013, Turkey adopted a Law on foreigners and international
protection. It regulates the principles and procedures with regard
to foreigners’ entry into and stay in Turkey, and the scope and
implementation of the protection to be provided for foreigners seeking
protection in Turkey. It also established a relevant authority to deal
with asylum seekers and migrants: the Directorate General of Migration
Management under the Ministry of the Interior.
62. In 2014, Turkey issued the Temporary Protection Regulation
which stipulates that “temporary protection proceedings may be provided
to foreigners who were forced to leave their countries and are unable
to return to the countries they left or crossed the border in masses
to seek urgent and temporary protection and whose international
protection requests cannot be taken under individual assessment”.
As a result, non-European refugees, including Syrians, may be granted
different kinds of temporary status such as humanitarian status, or
temporary or subsidiary protection.
63. The Directorate General of Migration Management conducts biometric
registration of refugees living inside and outside the camps. Each
refugee is issued with an identity card, valid for three years and
renewable, which substitutes for a residence permit and enables
them to have access to a range of services.
64. Beneficiaries of temporary protection have access to the labour
market in some clearly defined sectors. They have also access to
primary and secondary education and are covered by the general health
insurance system. In practice, access may be hindered by the unavailability
of some services due to the large refugee population and the lack
of sufficient resources to meet these needs. Language may also be
65. Since the beginning of the conflict up until 2016, Turkey
maintained an open-door policy towards Syrian refugees. Being on
the front-line of the refugee influx coming from Syria, it has assumed
the humanitarian challenge and became a world leader in the area
of humanitarian assistance: by 2015 it had spent US$6 billion in
providing assistance to Syrian refugees and the percentage of its
GDP spent on humanitarian aid amounted, in 2014, to 0.21% as compared,
for example to 0.014% of Sweden. The scale of the crisis continues
to put enormous strain on the country’s basic services, particularly
in host communities where over 90% of refugees reside.
66. This policy became much more restrictive in 2016, and now
the entries from Syria are considerably reduced and limited to specific
groups including vulnerable persons.
There are at present 21 refugee camps located in various Turkish
provinces in the proximity of the border with Syria. They are run
by the Turkish authorities and the UNHCR is providing Syrian refugees
with basic social needs including health care and education.Note
68. However, 94% of Syrian refugees live outside camps and have
very limited access to basic services. Their living conditions are
often appalling. Turkey tries to meet their basic needs. It is estimated
that over 350 000 Syrian refugee children remain out of school.
All Syrian refugees living outside camps face challenges such as
lack of awareness about available services, language barriers and
69. In November 2015, a Joint Action Plan was signed between the
European Union and Turkey aimed at stepping up co-operation for
the support of Syrian refugees under temporary protection and their
host communities in Turkey and to strengthen co-operation to prevent
irregular migration flows to the European Union. The European Union
committed to providing Turkey with approximately 3 billion euros
to manage the refugee crisis in the country (at that time it concerned
2.2 million Syrian refugees and 300 000 Iraqis).
In March 2016, the European Union and Turkey signed a Statement
with a view to better managing migration flows between Turkey and
Greece. It provided for enhanced security control over Turkish border coast,
increased fight against smugglers and traffickers, return from Greece
to Turkey of irregular migrants not in need of international protection
and an additional 3 billion euros for the European Union Facility
for Refugees in Turkey. The deal was criticised and I invite those
interested to acquaint themselves with two Assembly reports and
resolutions on the subject.Note
71. In January 2018, a total of 1 640 refugees and migrants were
rescued or intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guards at sea. In the
framework of the EU–Turkey Statement, 47 people were returned to
Turkey in January 2018, which brings the total number of returns
to 1 531 since March 2016. The vast majority (91%) of returned people
were men from South Asia or North Africa.
72. There are 267 000 refugees
in Iraq which should be added to 2.2 million IDPs. The population
of Iraq is 37 million. Refugees are mainly of Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian
and Turkish origin. The number of Syrian refugees was 248 092 in
February 2018. Furthermore, there are 47 630 stateless persons.
73. Iraq is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention.
74. The following legislation is relevant to refugees in Iraq:
Law No. 21 of 2010 on internally displaced persons and refugees;
Law No. 51 of 1971 on political refugees; ministerial decree No.
262 of 2008 on financial assistance to internally displaced victims
of inter-religious violation; ministerial Resolution 202 of 2001
on reception of Palestinian refugees.
75. The UNHCR co-ordinates with the government, other United Nations
agencies, and local and international partners in terms of its response
for refugees including registration, protection monitoring and advocacy,
legal and psychosocial aid, child protection, and ensures emergency
relief. Its mandate in Iraq extends not only to Syrian and non-Syrian
refugees and stateless persons, but also to IDPs. In all, there
are approximately 5.5 million people of concern to the UNHCR in
76. Refugees enjoy the same access to health care as Iraqi citizens.
77. All refugee children have the same access to education as
Iraqi children. However, severe shortages in terms of teachers,
schools and materials make this privilege somewhat illusory. Approximately
32% of refugee children do not attend school.
78. Access to work is granted with regard to the private sector.
It is problematic in the public sector however.
79. The overall humanitarian situation in Iraq is very precarious.
The continuing presence of IDPs is due to unsafe conditions in the
areas of origin, destroyed houses and infrastructure, and lack of
basic services. Retaken areas are not being fully cleared of explosive
hazards. Road closures, checkpoints, curfews and military attacks
are reportedly creating serious security challenges.
80. 97% of Syrian refugees in Iraq live in the Kurdistan region
of Iraq. 37% reside in nine camps, with the remainder living in
urban and peri-urban areas. As for IDPs, approximately 563 000 are
hosted in 76 camps.
81. The UNHCR monitors the return of displaced persons to their
areas of origin. Resettlement to third countries is pursued under
the responsibility of the UNHCR for a small number of refugees with
for durable solutions and role of the international community
82. In the first years following
the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, the international community
introduced emergency relief assistance based on voluntary contributions
and focused on emergency relief and basic social protection. However,
the scale and protracted nature of the crisis has challenged the
ability of the international community to meet the continuing need
for essential, life-saving humanitarian aid. In November 2013, when
it became clear that the settlement of the conflict would not be
imminent, calls for a “paradigm shift” in the approach to handling
such humanitarian crises were mooted. Supporters claimed that focus
should be put on coupling humanitarian efforts with a development
oriented approach to include economic growth in the hosting communities
so that refugees and the local population could share economic development.
83. Such a shift requires continued close collaboration between
humanitarian and development partners, in order to transform a humanitarian
refugee crisis into a development opportunity for all. International
donors’ conferences in London in 2016 and Brussels in 2017 adopted
this new approach.
84. The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), elaborated
under the auspices of the United Nations and co-ordinated by Syria
Response Group and Syria Task Force, is an inter-agency co-ordination
and planning tool to address the humanitarian and resilience needs
not only of Syrian refugees but also of host communities in Turkey,
Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. It addresses, through national
plans, immediate vulnerabilities, strengthens social cohesion, and
builds up the resilience of people, communities and national systems.
85. In other words, the 3RP is a regionally coherent framework
plan with five country chapters. All country plans are developed,
co-ordinated and implemented with the full involvement of the respective
governments. At the same time, the 3RP is a platform for planning,
advocacy, fundraising, information management and monitoring that
brings together all stakeholders, including Syrian refugees, impacted
communities in host countries and their governments, donors, and
national and international development and humanitarian actors in
the countries concerned. It developed from 52 partners involved
in 2012 to over 270 in 2018.
86. The 3RP funding requirement for 2018 has been foreseen for
US$4.4 billion. So far, US$2.48 billion has been received. In comparison,
in 2013, US$2.98 billion was requested and 2.12 funded. The difference between
2013 and 2018 illustrates well the difference in approach. I presume
that my colleague, Mr Pierre-Alain Fridez, who is preparing a report
on development aid, will devote his attention also to this very
interesting and valuable initiative. On my side, I can only call
on our member States to show generosity which would sustain the
efforts of Syria’s neighbouring countries and would decrease the
humanitarian plight of refugees.
87. While improvement of the reception capacities of the countries
across the region remains the main objective, the creation of legal
pathways for resettlement should become another priority. Regrettably,
while around 10% of the refugee population is in need of resettlement
because of their vulnerability, only 0.68% of requests are actually
submitted, which means that only approximately 7% of those in need
have been resettled, while many more wait for this opportunity.
In 2017, 29 525 departures for resettlement took place; the projected figure
for 2018 is 35 000 individuals.
88. The European countries should seriously consider increasing
the resettlement process and introducing other complementary pathways
including humanitarian visas, academic scholarships, private sponsorship
and labour mobility schemes.
89. In this context, being myself convinced that external processing
of asylum applications constitutes an opportunity to improve the
situation and should be given more attention, I refer all those
interested in this issue to the report on the subject currently
being prepared by Mr Domagoj Hajduković. Of course, externalisation
of asylum procedures should not result in lowering of human rights
standards. This concern is the main subject of Ms Tineke Strik’s
report on the “Human rights impact of the “external dimension” of
European Union asylum and migration policy: out of sight, out of
90. Furthermore, European countries should use all available diplomatic
means to encourage fairer responsibility sharing with non-EU countries,
in particular those involved in the political process in the Middle East
such as the United States, the Russian Federation or the Gulf States.
91. In this context, it is regrettable that the United States
has recently blocked entry to those fleeing Syria.
92. The Regional Durable Solutions Working Group, led by the UNHCR,
oversees the regional planning for durable solutions. Unfortunately,
conditions are not conducive for voluntary returns in safety and
dignity. Nonetheless some voluntary returns are taking place and
the UNHCR is helping to organise them.
93. Social inclusion is another important pathway. While the absolute
majority of refugees in the region want to return to their homes
once conditions allow, in the meantime they cannot be socially excluded
and some integration has to be assured. This requires in some cases
important revision of legislation and national policies but we should
not spare our efforts – particularly in the framework of parliamentary
dialogue – in promoting these solutions.
94. In Amman, I was informed about a very interesting Council
of Europe initiative called Intercultural cities. It is based on
the conviction that cities can gain enormously from the entrepreneurship,
variety of skills, and creativity associated with cultural diversity,
provided they adopt policies and practices that facilitate intercultural interaction
and inclusion. The Council of Europe has analysed the experience
of a range of cities across the continent which are managing diversity
as an asset, rather than as a threat. The collective input of these
cities has shaped a unique concept to migrant/minority integration
called intercultural integration. The concept is supported by extensive
research evidence and a range of international legal instruments.
The Intercultural cities programme supports cities in reviewing
their policies to integrate an intercultural dimension and developing
comprehensive intercultural strategies to help them manage diversity
positively and realise the diversity advantage. The programme proposes
a set of analytical and practical tools to help local stakeholders through
the various stages of the process.
95. With regard to the long-term Palestinian refugees across the
region, on 22 January 2018, UNRWA launched an unprecedented appeal
seeking support in the aftermath of major funding cuts to the agency
on the part of the United States. A few days earlier, the United
States announced that it would provide only US$60 million to UNRWA
in 2018 out of US$125 million initially planned, as compared to
US$350 million in 2017. As the United States has always been by
far the largest contributor to the UNRWA budget, this decision was
a major setback for the organisation’s activities.
96. UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Krähenbühl promised to maintain
services in 2018 and pledged increased contributions from the international
community. He stressed that such a significant budget reduction would
“impact regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiply
risks and threats”. He warned that the funding cuts would jeopardise
the access to education and future of 525 000 boys and girls in
700 UNRWA schools, as well as Palestinian refugees’ access to primary
health care and other life-saving services.
While being aware that, as recalled in the Assembly’s report
on “The situation in the Middle East”,Note
the Council of Europe is not the
United Nations or the European Union and its role is not that of
solving geopolitical issues. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the
fact that the non-implementation of United Nations Resolutions 194,
242 and 338 on the right to return of Palestinian refugees creates
a situation of limbo where they are deprived of their rights as
Palestinians and as refugees.
98. The region is currently both
the source and recipient of the largest numbers of refugees and
IDPs globally. While Syria and Yemen are at the core of the large-scale
displacement at the moment, there is significant protracted displacement
from other countries too, particularly from Iraq. The recent forced population
displacements take part in the context of earlier inflows of refugees
and of long-term displacement of third and fourth generations of
99. Syria’s neighbouring countries should be encouraged to enhance
their legal framework for governing refugee issues and better regulate
the services offered to refugees. In particular, they should all
ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and
its 1967 Protocol.
100. Furthermore, they should adopt and implement comprehensive
domestic legislation regulating benefits offered to refugees and
asylum seekers, in particular with regard to health care, education
101. Appropriate reception centres should be created on border
areas with Syria to provide temporary legal protection to refugees.
102. All the countries in question should be encouraged to enhance
mutual co-operation with the UNHCR to facilitate the repatriation
process and the distribution of appropriate services to refugees
and asylum seekers.
103. As violence continues in Syria and in the region, the absorption
capacity of the host countries is overstretched. To sustain their
efforts in the face of a continuous refugee influx, greater financial
support from the international community is indispensable. The comprehensive
approach addressing the needs of all of the host communities in
Syria’s neighbouring countries including refugees and the local
population adopted by the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP)
is to be highly commended as responding to the challenges faced by
the region. Council of Europe member States and other stakeholders
should step up their financial contributions to this Plan in order
to sustain the efforts of Syria’s neighbouring countries. They should
also support resettlement or other forms of admission of refugees
from the region to their countries.
104. All integration and social inclusion initiatives targeting
refugees in the region should be supported and encouraged. The Intercultural
cities programme sponsored by the Council of Europe is a good example
to be followed.
With regard to the particularly vulnerable situation of refugee
children, I would like to recall the need to implement the recommendations
and best practices contained in the Assembly’s reports on “The need
to eradicate statelessness of children”Note
and on “Harmonising the protection
of unaccompanied minors in Europe”.Note
I would also like to draw attention
to the Assembly’s campaign on “End immigration detention of children”.
106. There is a clear need to enhance the use of and take full
advantage of new technologies, including “EyePay” and a blockchain-based
form of digital identity in order to make significant financial
savings and make the whole assistance process more transparent and
The Council of Europe Development Bank could be instrumental
in funding projects for refugees in the region, as already recommended
by the Assembly in its Resolution
108. Finally, it should be stressed that enhancing the capacity
of Syria’s neighbouring countries to cope with the consequences
of forced displacements in the region would create more favourable
conditions for refugees to return to their countries once the situation
allows it and reduce the risk that they undertake a perilous journey across
the Mediterranean falling prey to smugglers and traffickers and
risking their lives.