Legislative panel to visit refugee camp
Syrian children receive toys and other goodies at the Zaatari camp in Jordan.The Parliamentary Human Rights Examination Commission would apply to the Foreign Ministry for permission to visit the Apaydın refugee camp, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said yesterday, adding that the expected response to the application was approval.
The move to allow access to Apaydın, where it is claimed rebels are being trained, appeared to have failed to satisfy main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) deputies who have been clamoring for a look inside the camp.
“In consultation with our prime minister we responded to this request positively. Transportation of the related parliamentary commission and all commission members who we believe will act with responsibility everywhere, including in the Apaydın camp can be provided [access],” Davutoğlu said at a press conference at Esenboğa Airport before he departed for New York. The foreign minister will participate in a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York on Aug. 30 and submit a presentation on the current situation of events in Syria and the growing refugee problem.
Davutoğlu’s remarks came in response to a question on the refusal of a recent request by some CHP deputies to visit the Apaydın camp. A bitter polemic developed between the CHP and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) executives following the refusal.
It is wrong to create the perception that the government is closing a certain zone, Davutoğlu said, adding that the CHP deputies’ request came as a “fait accompli.”
“As we have already been passing through a sensitive process, our prior expectation from all deputies and civil society organizations is to act responsibly and in this critical process to primarily take humanitarian concerns and Turkey’s national interests into consideration,” he said.
Davutoğlu said they are never indifferent to requests that are made in due form, adding that within this framework, they would respond positively to the request of Parliamentary Human Rights Examination Commission as well.
Five members of the 26-member Parliamentary Human Rights Examination Commission are from the CHP.
Later in the day following Davutoğlu’s announcement, CHP’s Kocaeli deputy Hurşit Güneş held a press conference at the Parliament.
“We wanted to enter the camp as the CHP delegation, but permission was not given. While it didn’t cross the mind of Human Rights Commission chair Ayhan Sefer Üstün earlier, suddenly going to refugee camps and gathering information occurred to him,” Güneş said. “While the Hatay governor says ‘Only I can enter, even the justice minister who is a fellow citizen of Hatay cannot enter,’ what happened now to allow the human rights commission to go? Did the statue change?”
The CHP’s spokesperson Haluk Koç, meanwhile, raised doubts about the government’s permission for the visit.
“They must have definitely put on make-up there [at the camp]. They are taking the necessary precautions and then taking us there,” Koç yesterday told private news television channel CNN-Türk.
The definition in the 1995 by-law
Military member refugees should be kept in a separate camp, according to a 1995 by-law, Davutoğlu said Aug. 29.
According to the related law dated 1941 and related by-laws dated 1995, “keeping foreign combat soldiers and officers who come [to Turkey] in a separate camp is not a choice, but is a requirement of regulations on this issues.”
“UN practices are also within this framework,” Davutoğlu said.
According to the Regulation No. 7473 from Nov. 7, 1995 on Combatant Members of Foreign Armies Seeking Asylum in Turkey, to which Davutoğlu referred, “Combat foreign military member defines the soldier person who is accepted to the country or who is seized in the country; and defines the soldier person whose armed forces wage war or have a conflict with a third country.”
Thus, the related regulation to which Davutoğlu referred to as the basis for the establishment of a separate camp for military origin Syrians does not list soldiers who are involved in a civil war as it is the situation in Syria.
Foreign Ministry officials, contacted by Hürriyet Daily News following Davutoğlu’s press conference, were not available for comment on the issue when the newspaper went to print.
‘Refugees can join FSA’
Meanwhile, Deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Hüseyin Çelik denied claims that the Apaydın refugee camp was a military base or serving as the Syrian opposition’s military headquarters. “This is a refugee camp. Can these people join the opposition and fight one day? Yes of course they can do that, this is a not secret thing,” he said.