NGOs urge legal definition of ‘temporary resident status’ for Syrian refugees

NGOs urge legal definition of ‘temporary resident status’ for Syrian refugees

NGOs urge legal definition of ‘temporary resident status’ for Syrian refugees

A newly arrived Syrian refugee woman holds her baby as she stands with her family on Aug. 18 near the Eminönü docks in Istanbul. AFP Photo / Bülent Kılıç

A group of NGOs has called for legislation formally defining the status of temporary residents, expressing concern about the latest attacks targeting Syrian refugees in several Turkish cities.

Stressing that Syrians are only able to enjoy limited rights and cannot officially apply for asylum in Turkey due to geographic restrictions, the NGOs said their rights should be clearly determined by the law and observed by everyone.

“Syrian refugees are individuals with rights that should be respected. So, [officials] should stop defining it without giving it legal basis,” said Metin Çorabatır, the deputy head of the Research Center for Migration and Asylum (İGAMDER), in a press statement issued on behalf of 12 NGOs including Amnesty International Turkey, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD) and the Human Rights Association (İHD).

Çorabatır, a former head of the U.N.’s Refugee Agency in Turkey, said the failure to confer a legal basis to the rights of refugees in terms of housing, work and education and explain it to the public could increase hate crimes against Syrians.

“Syrians living outside camps who have a rightful concern about their own and their children’s future could be the victims of fresh violent attacks if they are forced into a position as if they are on their own,” Çorabatır said.

Tensions between local populations and Syrian refugees have increased in recent weeks, particularly in southeastern Turkey, where many families have settled in urban areas in search of work.

Çorabatır also criticized the authorities for not thoroughly prosecuting attacks against refugees and forcing them to either settle in camps or return to Syria. He also said the settlement of camps in “safe zones” within Iraq were practices contrary to human rights and international law.

According to official figures, over 1.2 million Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey since the start of the civil war, with nearly one million living in urban areas outside camps. However, NGOs have signaled that the real numbers could be much higher and have urged for the rapid implementation of a long-term plan.