Turkey: Commissioner Hammarberg recommends further efforts to protect human rights for minorities, asylum seekers and refugees

The Commissioner is concerned that the authorities do not officially recognise the existence of any minority groups other than those of Armenians, Greeks and Jews and recommends efforts to establish a genuine dialogue with all minority groups. After the visit the government has taken measures to develop a further dialogue with Kurdish representatives and with religious minority leaders which the Commissioner welcomes.

He is however concerned about a continued tendency to marginalise religious minority groups and urges the authorities to promote awareness among the general public of the value of a multicultural society. The Commissioner notes with interest the latest legislative measures on the protection of property rights of non-Muslim minority foundations. However, he identifies remaining shortcomings which necessitate further action in order to fully incorporate the European Court of Human Rights’ case law in the relevant legislation and practice.

The report focuses also on the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly of Kurdish origin. The authorities are urged to accelerate and ensure the effective reparation of the IDPs, including enabling them to exercise their right to voluntary return, voluntary resettlement or local integration. The Commissioner recommends that the system of village guards be abolished and that further efforts be made to complete the clearance of the mined areas, especially those from or near the IDPs’ areas of origin.

Commissioner Hammarberg notes with concern the marginalisation of Roma, their serious difficulties in enjoying effectively certain social and civil rights, and instances of violence by police and non-state actors. The adoption of effective policies is recommended in order to stamp out all kinds of discrimination against Roma, to ensure proper housing and effective protection of their cultural heritage.

He recommends also the prompt establishment of an effective national human rights institution, the creation and implementation of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, the ratification of Protocol N° 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Turkey’s accession to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

In the report on asylum seekers and refugees, the Commissioner welcomes the plan to adopt a new asylum legislation and calls upon the European and international community to assist Turkey in managing migration flows. He recommends that domestic definitions of asylum seekers and refugees be aligned with international standards and that steps be taken to identify better the asylum seekers in the flow of mixed migration. The necessity to strengthen and enhance the authorities’ cooperation with UNHCR in Turkey is also underlined in the report.

The Commissioner calls on the Turkish authorities to review the accelerated asylum procedure system in line with Council of Europe standards. Furthermore he recommends that clear instructions be given to all border officials and their training be reinforced to ensure that potential asylum seekers, also in places of detention, are properly informed of their rights.

While welcoming the measures under way to create regional reception centers, the Commissioner urges the authorities to improve asylum seekers and refugees’ access to health care and ensure their access to work. He recommends the enhancement of efforts securing dignified living conditions for all detained asylum seekers, while detention should be the exception and for the shortest possible time.

Noting with concern a reported increase of forced returns in 2008 to Iraq and Iran and alleged lack of investigation into certain cases, Commissioner Hammarberg urges the Turkish authorities to ensure the effective implementation of the principle of non-refoulement in particular at points of entry. This would include full abidance by the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens, better training of and instructions to border officers and effective investigations into cases of alleged human rights violations.

Commending the special care unaccompanied asylum-seeking children receive in Turkey, the Commissioner recommends that the benefit of doubt in age assessment be applied, that children be well informed in a language they understand and assigned individually a personal guardian. In addition, medical service and education should be improved and the effective application of the principle of the best interest of the child in refugee law and policy should be ensured.

Whilst welcoming the Turkish authorities’ action against trafficking in human beings Commissioner Hammarberg recommends prompt adoption of the new draft action plan, paying special attention to the need to improve identification of victims among refugees, notably at places of entry. The government is reminded of the importance of ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Finally, the Commissioner calls upon the authorities to increase interaction with non-governmental organizations specialized in asylum-seekers’ protection, in view of the preparation of the new asylum legislation.

The reports with the government’s comments can be found on www.commissioner.coe.intPhotos from the mission are published simultaneously.

Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office: Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int

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