Why can’t we discuss refugee policy?

Why can’t we discuss refugee policy?

On May 14, Association for Solidarity with Refugees (Mülteci-Der) Board Chair Taner Kılıç’s article titled “Syrian refugees” was published in daily Zaman. This article is important since it was written before the Reyhanlı attack but released after the incident. Kılıç’s criticisms of Turkey’s refugee policy and the dangers he stated tragically revealed themselves when the paper went to print. And now we are talking about the possibility that some Syrian refugees might have been lynched there.

In that article, after appreciating the “open door” policy and the value of the services offered to Syrians, Kılıç touched upon a few points. First, he indicates that the refugee camps have been closed to nongovernmental activities since 2011. As you know, the “Directive on the Reception and Accommodation of Nationals of the Syrian Arab Republic and Stateless Persons who reside in the Syrian Arab Republic and who arrive across Turkish Borders in a Mass Influx to Seek Asylum” is still a state secret.

Habits from the Cold War

I learned from a telephone conversation that a senior authority from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) recently let Kılıç read the directive, cautioning him not to show it to anyone. The strange part is that he is one of those several people who saw that document. Even though he did not talk about its contents, he said, “I read it line by line and did not find so many things to react against as a human rights activist.” This expression makes his attitude even more obscure.

“There is a view to conducting things clandestinely as a habit from the Cold War period,” he said. “Turkey is engaging in work that is historic in many aspects. So why doesn’t it conduct it publicly, open to the national and international press, researchers and civil society? For some reason, they cannot manage that. Some say it is because of security concerns. Has a nongovernmental organization ever harmed a hair on a refugee’s head? But for instance, Col. Hussein Harmoush was taken from the camp by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) local administrator and sold to the Bashar al-Assad regime. After all, we become the ones who cut off the contact. It is a nonsensical logic.”

Preferring to say “guest” instead of the internationally recognized term “refugee” causes a lack of transparency since “guest” is a non-standardized term. The worries and question marks created by the secret policies have increased in the region when Turkey’s relation to Free Syrian Army and its partial Syrian policy are added to these. The worst part is the secret results in the transfer of the fault lines from Syria to Turkey.

Turkey’s act of judging Reyhanlı and Hatay province with careless language by creating a type of local racism without discussing Turkey’s Syrian and refugee policies unfortunately paved the way for an abstract kind of lynching.

“If they ask me in which part of Turkey Syrians could feel most comfortable, this is the place I will suggest because there is a blood kinship among locals and refugees. They are like relatives to each other,” Taner Kılıç says about Reyhanlı. An effective investigation into the alleged lynching incidents will shed light on the manipulation in the region. Following it is also required, just like insistently questioning the malfunction of security cameras at the moment of the explosion.

As a result, we are in the midst of a desperate situation which makes Syrians who fled from the war want to return to the war again, a case rarely seen in the world. I lastly want to add this advice of Kılıç: “A decade ago, Greece was not a place where migrants were attacked on the streets, but the policies implemented were so poor that they can now raid houses. The problem is not only eating or drinking; it has two different viewpoints for locals and refugees. Both judiciary and psycho-social measures must be taken. An administration including local opinion leaders and nongovernmental organizations could be organized instead of arbitrary decisions only taken by Ankara.”

Unfortunately, some people write or speak without considering the severity of the issue.

* Pınar Öğünç is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared May 17. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.