KAYSERI – Holland will help Turkey with the setting up of six refugee centres and the training of personnel for the centres. There’s 1.2 million euro’s available for the project, coming from EU funds. Dutch State Secretary of Justice Nebahat Albayrak finalised the details of previous agreements this week during a working visit to Turkey. Turkey chose Holland as a partner country for the project. “Holland has a fine record in this field”, says Albayrak.
Turkey has no refugee laws. The country is a signatory to the Geneva Treaty on refugees, but has an exception clause. Because of that Turkey only accepts refugees from Europe – which sounds strange, but is not so strange in a historical light: the Treaty stems from 1951, a time when Turkey accepted uprooted people from post World War II Europe. But now many refugees from African countries and Turkey’s neighbour Iraq use Turkey as a transit country on the way to Europe or the United States. Besides that,Turkey is also fast becoming a destination in itself. State Secretary Albayrak: ‘The only way to get refugee status in Turkey is through the UNHCR, which has an office in Ankara, but that procedure takes a long time and the outcome is never certain. That encourages human trafficking. If Turkey sets up a good, effective refugee procedure itself, organised crime will have less opportunity.”
In preparation for future membership of the EU, introduction of refugee legislation in Turkey is planned for 2012. Albayrak notices some scepticism among Turkish politicians. “They are aware of the fact that this is a strategic issue”, she says. “What’s the point of this sort of legislation if some European countries oppose or even try to block Turkey’s EU membership? Or, as an NGO that I visited this week put it: Turkey doesn’t want to be Europe’s dumping ground for refugees. What if Turkey gets strong laws concerning refugees and good refugee centres, but then is blocked from joining the EU? A nice way for Europe to keep refugees out of Europe, some people in Turkey reason. This is also becoming a political hot potato.”
The project will start this fall, with the first refugee centres scheduled to open in 2009.
(written for news agency ANP)