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Refugees on Turkish-Syrian border: PACE delegation congratulates the Turkish authorities for their quick response

Strasbourg, 27.07.2011 – At the end of a one-day visit to the Hatay region in Turkey on 26 July, a four-member delegation from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), headed by Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), stated that “the Turkish authorities must be congratulated for their quick response to the situation".

The delegation, which visited two refugee camps in the Hatay region and met those involved in managing the situation said the conditions in the camps were of high standards. "The Syrians living in the camps are grateful for the efforts of the Turkish authorities and the Turkish Red Crescent who have agreed to meet their needs", the parliamentarians said.

"The authorities have the answer for a crisis situation. But, as the situation could last longer and continue into the winter, we also need a sustainable solution for refugees", they added.

The delegation said it was particularly concerned by an apparent lack of information in the camps on the asylum procedure. "A number of Syrians seem to intend to ask asylum but do not know how to do it." The delegation stressed how important it is that the camps and their management are open to the involvment of international organisations and NGOs with expertise in this field. "We regard it as essential that UNHCR can visit the camps and inform the refugees more regularly. This has so far only been sporadicaly the case."

The parliamentarians urged Turkey to reconsider and lift as soon as possible its geographical limitation to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees, which limits the recognition of refugee to European refugees.

"We were also struck by the testimonies we heard about the plight of the Syrians. Not only the repression is going on and escalating in Syria, but the families of those who have found refuge in Turkey are being threatened and those who risked returning to Syria are said to have been ill-treated", they said.

The delegation considered it urgent that the international media have access to Syria and start reporting on what is really going on there. "We strongly condemn the way the Syrian Government is oppressing its people and the international community, including Europe, must react to the continuing violations of Human Rights", the parliamentarians concluded.