26/06/2012 | Writer: Heber Tito Galvez

The International World Refugee Day celebrated on June 20th is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the precarious situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey

The International World Refugee Day celebrated on June 20th is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the precarious situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey
 
To mark World Refugee Day on June 20th, the Coordination for Refugees Rights (CRR) released a report in which figures indicate a striking increase in the number of refugees in Turkey, prompting debate on the resolution of Turkey’s long standing refugee issues.
The “World Refugee Day” was officially established by U.N. General Assembly’s resolution in the year 2000 in order to raise awareness about the situation of refugees throughout the world.  The first celebration was held on June 20th 2001, which marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and to which Turkey is a signatory.
 
The above-mentioned report reveals that 2011 saw a 74 percent of increase in the number of refugees in Turkey, representing the most rapid increase in numbers seen in the last 10 years. The majority of the almost 29,500 registered refugees come from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia.
 
A small -but still significant- fraction of this group is composed of refugees and asylum seekers who escape their countries because their lives are at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBT refugee community in Turkey currently accounts for almost 250 individuals and face additional challenges due to their vulnerable situation.
 
In 2011, an extensive report prepared by the legal department at Kaos GL stated that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey are particularly affected in the following areas: housing, access to healthcare, economic situation, violence and discrimination. These problems arise from the homo/trans-phobic nature of Turkish society and other non-LGBT refugee groups, who discriminate against them at every level of civil life.
 
As a positive step regarding refugee conditions, the Interior Ministry has prepared a law titled “Foreigners and International Protection Draft Bill”, aiming to ensure better living standards and greater protections for refugees. The bill fleshes out the previously insufficient legal framework and makes numerous improvements to both migrant and refugee statuses. While the law contains some drawbacks and still requires legislatorial approval, it is a milestone in Turkey’s negotiation of refugee issues.
 
“It is true that the bill will raise the standards of refugees’ living conditions significantly. However, the bill does not commit to resolving the issues of the difficulty of gaining international protection status or the long and complicated process for asylum-seeker and refugee applications. For example, asylum seekers are required to submit their application within 10 days after entering the country and to provide an official identity document within 15 days. This is too short a period of time and moreover if the applicant leaves the province he or she is in within these 15 days, the application is canceled automatically. And the new draft bill promises no significant change on this issue,” Pırıl Erçoban, administrative coordinator of the Association for Solidarity with Refugees (MDD), stated. 
 
Adapted from Today’s Zaman: http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=284445

Tags: human rights
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