TURKEY: A Safe Country?

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No country can be deemed « safe ». That is the spirit of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees which provides for the individual examination of each asylum claim: each personal situation is unique. To label a country as a “safe country of origin” suggests that there is no general risk of persecution and that the state of law is respected. A “safe” country can also be categorised as a “safe third country” where asylum-seekers who have transited through the said country may be returned there because their asylum procedures is in line with international and European refugee law standards.

The notion of safety as an examination tool can have dire consequences on asylum-seekers’ rights (see policy brief on the concept of safe country): accelerated procedures, non-suspensive appeals i.e. removal before a final decision was made, heavier burden of proof for the asylum-seeker, claim likely to be rejected if not inadmissible in the case of safe third countries.

In September 2015, the European Commission proposed a draft Regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin comprising the following countries listed in an annex: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. None of these countries is unanimously recognised as safe among the 12 Member States where such a list exist; Turkey is only recognised as a safe country of origin by Bulgaria. This suggests that such a labeling does not really base on objective criteria. On 18 March 2015, the deal concluded between the head of EU states and Turkey foresees the possibility to return asylum-seekers to Turkey provided their claim would be processed according to international law there.

The AEDH, EuroMed Rights, and the FIDH are opposed to the use of the notion of « safety ». In the case of Turkey, our organisations assert, based on first-hand collected information, that the country is not safe, neither for citizens of Turkey, nor for migrants and refugees. This is even more the case with the resurgence of the armed conflict between the State and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Kurdish regions since July 2015 which has brought over 350 000 people to be internally displaced, in addition to the knock-out effect of the conflict in Syria on Turkish soil where over 2,5M refugees are displaced.

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