November 2020

November 2020

No serious EU sanctions against Turkey expected, experts say

Date: 30/11/2020

Despite rising tensions between Turkey and the European Union, some experts argue that the EU leaders' summit on Dec. 10-11 will not lead to any substantial sanctions against Ankara and the bloc's possible exclusionary policies targeting the country would work against the union itself.

While some circles think that the upcoming summit will be a "breaking point" in bilateral relations, political experts say this perspective alone does not reflect the truth and the EU would not risk losing Turkey.

According to Enes Bayraklı, the European studies director of the Turkish think tank Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), although the EU and Turkey have had some disputes, they should work to strengthen their ties through cooperation.

The current international political environment makes cooperation a must for both sides, Bayraklı said, noting that neither has the luxury of turning its back on the other.

He went on to say that the December summit might result in some "symbolic" decisions against Ankara, adding it was unlikely that the European pact would adopt significant sanctions. The Turkish expert said the discourse on the so-called "breaking point" was just a tool used to put psychological pressure on Ankara.

Some members, including France, Austria, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, want to corner Turkey and impose sanctions, she noted, but there are also other nations sharing bilateral ties and common interests with Ankara.

According to Nurşin Ateşoğlu Güney, an academic in the International Relations department of Istanbul-based Nişantaşı University, the EU will not cut its ties with Turkey for multiple reasons, including economic and security concerns, as excluding Turkey would not work in the favor of European leaders.


'Mankind's greatest peace project needs Turkey,' says Ambassador

Date: 30/11/2020

Of all Turkey's strained relations in recent years – its disputes with the United States, conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean and military confrontations in Syria and Libya – the most significant and impactful has probably been its link with the European Union. Relations between Turkey and Europe will be scrutinised and discussed at the next EU summit on 10 December. In anticipation that Turkey will be a divisive issue on the agenda, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week called on the EU to respect its promises of cooperation with Turkey. "We don't see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe," he stressed.

Building a future with Europe has been a key objective of Turkey for the five decades that it has sought membership of the bloc. This has continued under Erdogan's premiership and presidency despite the numerous obstacles that have threatened the process.

A key figure in this, as well as a top advisor of the then Prime Minister Erdogan, has been Turkish diplomat and politician Egemen Bagis. As Turkey's chief negotiator with the EU and Minister of EU Affairs until 2013, Bagis played a pivotal role in his country's accession talks and was the main point of contact between Ankara and Brussels.

In an interview at the Turkish Embassy in Prague last week, Bagis called the EU "the grandest peace project in the history of mankind." When asked why, he said "When you look at the history of EU member countries you see a lot of wars, bloodshed, animosity, hatred and tears," he explained. "The most amazing thing about the EU is that no member of the EU has fired even a single bullet towards another EU member in the history of the organisation."

This, though, has not stopped the bloc's members from firing on non-EU countries and vice versa. For Bagis, this means that, "We have to turn this peace project… into a global peace project."

Turkey looks to be a hub for energy resources flowing to the West, and its recent discovery of over 450 billion cubic metres of gas reserves in the Black Sea will help. It also aims to utilise the strategic Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which last month announced that it was ready to begin operations and deliver gas directly from Azerbaijan to Europe for the first time.

With this increased involvement in the regional energy market and the demand for non-Russian gas, as well as the assistance in security and migration control that his country can provide, Bagis asserted that cooperation between the EU and Turkey is not a luxury. "It's a necessity."


Three Syrian entrepreneur women in Istanbul: “We are not a burden, we add value”

Date: 29/11/2020

The research conducted by International Migration and Refugee Association[1] refuted the widely held claim that “migrants are a burden to the state and the society”. According to the report, migrants do not constitute a burden but they contribute to the economy.

In the research, 346 enterprises were interviewed 47 of which were run by women. The news article tells the story of three women migrant entrepreneurs who started their businesses in Turkey after fleeing the Syrian Civil War: Abir Alluş who runs a textile workshop, Hind Akil who owns a language centre, and Nur Aburashed who has a beauty salon.


Turkey to maintain humanitarian foreign policy in 2021

Date: 29/11/2020

Turkey will continue to implement an entrepreneurial and humanitarian foreign policy in the field and at the table in 2021, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday.

Cavusoglu comments came during a presentation on the ministry's budget and structure as well as foreign policy goals and priorities at the Plan and Budget Commission of Parliament.

Turkey allocated more than 5.7 billion Turkish lira (more than $738 million) for central and abroad representations of the ministry to carry out duties and responsibilities.

A budget of 787 million lira is allocated for the EU Presidency, including 698 million for participation in the National Agency and European Union (EU) programs and 42 million for the Turkish Accreditation Agency, according to the presentation said.

Below are important points related to our project from Cavusoglu’s presentation:​​​​​​​

  • For Turkey, which is among the founding members of the Council of Europe and the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), EU membership constitutes a strategic goal. Turkey is committed to the completion of membership negotiations but voices its expectation that the EU should see the value Turkey would add to the bloc and political obstacles that hinder the relationship be removed.
  • Being under heavy pressure of immigration because of its geographical location, Turkey expects the EU to fulfil the March 18, 2016, EU-Turkey Statement and Action obligation.
  • Turkey questions Greece’s human violations such as push-back and mistreatment of the refugees on international platforms.


Refugees in Turkey are pushed into ghettoization in absence of integration policies

Date: 27/11/2020

The majority of Turkish society is resisting accommodating refugees, and migration policies are ineffective in integration, which is pushing refugees into ghettoization and causing social division, according to Professor Murat Erdoğan of the Turkish-German University Center for Migration and Integration.

Speaking before the Turkish parliament’s Migration and Integration Committee, Professor Erdoğan said although Turkey was accepting a large number of refugees, the country lacked a comprehensive policy for establishing integration and social cohesion. The problem has become more pronounced as the number of Syrian refugees entering Turkey has grown to 4 million since 2011.

Erdoğan advised that Turkey needed to revise its migration and border policies keeping in mind that arriving refugees are concentrating in specific cities and neighborhoods. “This means that half the city does not know they exist, while the other half is irritated by the large numbers of refugees in their neighborhoods,” he said.

He noted that local administrations had a great deal of responsibility for handling such ghettoization. “Refugees are a sociological fact in Turkey, and even if the war in Syria ends they will not return, so we need to implement effective policies to accommodate refugees,” Erdoğan said.

He stressed that Turkey’s borders were porous, resulting in a great deal of irregular migration. “Yes, there is an ongoing war in Syria, but we also see a lot of migrants coming from other countries, especially from the Iranian border. We cannot allow such a free pass into Turkey without thinking about integration.”

He added that most refugees were left to take care of themselves without any proper guidance: “We need to use the potential these people have to offer. Most Turks are ‘othering’ Syrians, and this is causing irreversible damage. We cannot allow refugees to be excluded from the labor market.”

Professor Erdoğan pointed out that even in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 80 percent were against granting refugees political rights or work permits, arguing that refugees have become a “burden” to the country.

An estimated 3.6 million refugees have been granted temporary protection in Turkey. The majority of them live outside camps, in precarious and challenging circumstances.

The Turkish Red Crescent conducted a survey in 2018 which showed that most Syrian refugees were employed in irregular jobs that came with low wages as well as poor working conditions and exploitation. According to the survey this was especially true concerning female and child workers.

The increasing social tension has also been reflected in how refugees, and especially Syrian refugees, have been represented in the Turkish media.

According to the “Hate Speech and Discriminatory Discourse in Media 2019 Report[2],” published by the Hrant Dink Foundation, Syrian refugees in Turkey were the second most targeted group in the Turkish media, with 760 hate speech items. According to the report they were systematically coded as criminals, murderers and thieves who posed imminent security problems including terrorism. Syrians were also represented in the media as the reason for the current adverse economic situation in Turkey and rising unemployment numbers.


EU border agency Frontex director ‘aware of illegal refugee pushbacks’

Date: 27/11/2020

Further investigation by Der Spiegel on its initial report on Frontex knowing about refugee “pushbacks” show agency director was aware of at least one violation.

European border security agency Frontex's director Fabrice Leggeri has been aware of systematic refugee "pushbacks" from Greece to Turkey in the Aegean Sea.

In a "Serious Incident Report", Frontex officials have recorded incidents violating fundamental rights, incidents that implicate their own border officials, German Der Spiegel news website reported[3].

Spiegel said Leggeri was aware of at least one violation, accusing him of trying to cover up for Frontex.

A Frontex document shows Leggeri was informed on May 8 about some 30 refugees who were dragged from Greece into Turkish waters by Greek border guards on the night of April 18 – an incident observed by the EU border agency.

Results of an investigation released on October 23 by Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, ARD and Asahi TV revealed the border agency's role in several pushbacks which experts say is likely illegal.

A video from a June incident allegedly showed a Frontex boat blocking a refugee boat.


A mutual “migration” letter from Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta to the EU

Date: 25/11/2020

Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta have sent a mutual letter to the European Council about the New Migration Pact.

In the letter, the four countries stated that the rules governing the entry of migrants and refugees are not solely the responsibility of the countries of first entry.

The letter pointed at the need to clarify collaboration rules between countries for burden-sharing. It also suggested that an efficient readmission system should be implemented.


Turkey failing in migrant and refugee rights

Date: 24/11/2020

“Migration and Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2016-2020 Turkish Report Panel” organized by

Istanbul Bilgi University Centre for Migration Research took place online on Monday November 23rd. Turkey’s  policies on migrants’ integration between the years 2016-2020 have been evaluated within the framework of the MIPEX database of 52 migrant-receiving countries. Turkey scored 43 out of 100, which shows that even the half point has not been reached in migrants’ integration.

Migrants’ and refugees’ integration into the labour force has been recorded to be inadequate. Also their political integration has been claimed critically negative as Turkey has not made any progress in this area and migrants and refugees are cast outside political participation, cannot vote or join a political party.

The family unification score has also dropped from 61 in 2014 to 53 this year. The evaluators also reported problems in terms of migrants’ and refugees’ legal rights. One of the evaluators, Dr. Neva Öztürk said, “In this issue, we also need to consider the lack of the sharing of international protection responsibilities by the international community. We don’t observe positive rearrangements that aim for integration in our legislation. With this note, Turkey is making efforts for progress”.


Şentop, the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey: Turkey is not supported enough in dealing with the migration issue

Date: 24/11/2020

Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Şentop, spoke at the conference organized by GNAT and Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

Şentop said,  “With our strong institutional infrastructure and comprehensive legislative system, we have been providing all kinds of fundamental services to refugees including health and education services even during the pandemic. Still, 600 thousand Syrian children have access to free education in our country. 40 billion dollars have been spent for refugees so far. However, I must sadly express that we are witnessing the indifference of many countries – primarily the EU members - in the face of the migration crisis. We see that Turkey, which has been protecting migrants and refugees in the best possible way, is not supported enough by European countries in dealing with the migration issue.”

He added, “Unfortunately, among the vulnerable groups who are impacted by Europe’s refusal of taking responsibility, the most affected ones are migrant and refugee children. There are dreadful reports prepared by NGOs and international organization including the UN, on the number of migrant and refugee children who get lost after reaching Europe. Because there are currently no efficient mechanisms to track and protect children who get lost during the migration journey and because European countries could not establish a strong cooperation, this issue has turned into a significant human rights problem.”


Turkey calls on EU to understand its 'mistakes'

Date: 24/11/2020

Turkey expects the European Union to acknowledge its mistakes and understand the value Turkey's membership will bring to the bloc, the country's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"We expect the EU to acknowledge its mistakes and understand the value that Turkey's membership will add to the union. In that case, we believe that a more productive relationship can be established for both parties," Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Turkish Parliament's Planning and Budget Commission in the capital Ankara.

Çavuşoğlu stressed that developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean affect Turkey's relations with the EU.

Some member countries bring their bilateral problems with Turkey to the EU, he said, adding that those countries were wearing "a so-called 'membership solidarity mask" and using it against the country.

Turkey, in all its EU contacts, stresses its desire to engage in a constructive dialogue, Çavuşoğlu also noted.

Over the past week, Ankara has offered an olive branch to Europe as an opportunity to repair the recently strained bilateral ties, calling on the EU to do its part by fulfilling its promise to Turkey of full membership to the bloc.

"We see ourselves as an inseparable part of Europe, with which we share 600 years of historical bonds," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a live speech Sunday.

Addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for provincial congresses via videoconference, he called on the EU to keep its promises.

"We are calling on the EU to create a closer bond with us, to keep their promise of full membership for Turkey," he said.

Turkey-EU ties have been at odds recently, as the conflict of interests over multiple topics caused tension between the two sides. The disagreement over the Eastern Mediterranean has, in particular, occupied bilateral relations for months now.

There has been increased friction between Turkey and its Eastern Mediterranean neighbors, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, over offshore energy exploration rights in the past few months. Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Eastern Mediterranean, has sent drillships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also have rights in the region.

EU leaders had agreed on Oct. 2 to give Turkey until early December before considering economic sanctions, and Germany, which has so far led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.


Erdoğan emphasizes refugees at G-20 Summit

President Erdoğan attended the online G-20 summit, and he said “Turkey has been hosting the most number of refugees in the past 6 years”. He added, “We should grow the financial resources to increase humanitarian aid towards people who have been affected by the war and who are at risk”.

Date: 22/11/2020


Turkey's reform era to benefit politics, foreign policy: Presidential spokesperson

Date: 22/11/2020

Turkey’s new era of reforms in the economy and judiciary will considerably contribute to politics and foreign policy, according to the Turkish presidential spokesperson.

“It will make our work flow faster both at home and abroad. This will have many positive effects on economy, politics, society, and foreign policy,” İbrahim Kalın told news channel NTV on Nov. 21.

Kalın reminded that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Nov. 13 a new period of reforms, saying that the new steps will raise the standards for democratic rights and freedom of people.

He also stressed that protecting the balance between security and freedom is essential.

“This is a very sensitive balance. Not so easy, as well,” he said.

“Turkey is the only NATO member which simultaneously fights three terror groups,” he noted, highlighting the great fight the country launched against terrorism.

Kalın said one also has to think about the security of life and property, as well as border security and migration, along with all these issues, and added: “But none of these mean that freedoms and democracy are restricted or eliminated.

“Taking steps to maintain balance marks a period that will make us free, democratic, and safe.”


Erdogan calls on EU for dialogue, says Turkey’s future in Europe

Date: 21/11/2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the European Union for dialogue, warning the bloc not to become a “tool for enmities” during escalating tensions over the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s deployment of a vessel to search for natural gas in waters claimed by Greece set off a fierce war of words between Ankara and EU member states, who early this month extended sanctions against Ankara for another year.

The measures included allowing visa bans and asset freezes against individuals involved in contested gas exploration in the Mediterranean.

“We expect the EU to keep its promises, not to discriminate against us or at least not to become a tool to open enmities targeting our country,” Erdogan said in a video address to his ruling party congress on Saturday.

“We don’t see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe,” he added. “We envisage building our future together with Europe.”

Hours after Erdogan’s address, Ankara extended its mission in the Eastern Mediterranean until November 29, despite protests from Athens.

EU leaders are to decide in a December summit whether to impose further sanctions over Turkey’s recent activity.


“Migration and Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2016-2020 Turkish Report Panel” will take place on November 23rd

Date: 20/11/2020

The panel is organized by Istanbul Bilgi University Centre for Migration Research and it will take place online on Monday November 23rd.

The panel will explore questions such as “Which areas should be prioritized to be more inclusive in our national law and policies regarding social integration in our country?”, and “How does Turkey rank in terms of integration policies on basic rights, security and equal opportunities compared to EU countries and the 52 countries that receive migrants and refugees?”


UN: Refugee resettlement is at an ultimate low

Date: 19/11/2020

UNHCR reported[4] that due to the current pandemic, only 15,425 refugees have been resettled to third countries in the past year, which is the lowest number in the recent past.

Last year, these numbers were 50,086. In the announcement, UNHCR called nations to resettle more refugees in 2020 in order for migrants to not lose the chance to be resettled and to have more quotas in 2021 for resettlement.


Turkey's behaviour "widening its separation" from EU, Borrell says

Date: 19/11/2020

Turkey’s rhetoric on Cyprus is aggravating tensions with the European Union and Ankara must understand that its behaviour is “widening its separation” from the 27-nation bloc, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

“We consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions,” Borrell told a news conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“We consider that it is important that Turkey understands that its behaviour is widening its separation from the EU ... In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side.”

He was referring to comments by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called for an equal “two-state” solution in Cyprus during a visit earlier this week to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

Erdogan also said Turkey and Northern Cyprus would no longer tolerate what he called “diplomacy games” in an international dispute over rights to offshore resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is an official candidate for EU membership.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Only Ankara recognises Northern Cyprus as an independent state and it has no diplomatic relations with the government of Cyprus, which is a member of the EU.

Cyprus called Erdogan’s visit “provocative and illegal”.

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over illegal exploration at sea when its leaders meet next month.

“Time is running, and we are approaching a watershed moment in our relationship with Turkey,” Borrell said.

The EU has failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus, but it has so far held off imposing sanctions that Athens and Nicosia are seeking.

Germany, which has led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.


Incident at Refugee Admission Centre

Date: 18/11/2020

Refugees at Kofinou, Cyprus reacted against being moved to Tersefanou to be quarantined after 16 refugees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The police and action forces intervened at the scene.

After the incident has been suppressed, 12 out of 16 refugees were taken to Tersefanou.


France will suggest sanctions against Turkey at the EU Summit

Date: 18/11/2020

With increasing tensions between Turkey and France regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Islam-Secularism debates on top of disputes about Syria, Libya, East Mediterranean, the caricature and the radical Islamist terror attacks, France is now preparing to suggest imposing economic sanctions against Turkey at the EU Summit that will take place on December 11th at Brussels.

As a guest at the program organized by C News, the economy magazing Les Echos and Europe 1 Radio, The Minister of State for European affairs of France, Clement Beaune, said, “For 10-15 years we have believed that Turkey had the ideas of sympathetic modernization and democracy like Christian Democrats, but that is not true. What is going on in Turkey is a cultural and geopolitical Islamism in every area”. He also added that individual sanctions against the Turkish president are also being discussed.

After stating that Germany is strongly opposed to cancel the Customs Union Agreement with Turkey, Europe 1 said, “Beyond diplomatic and economic difficulties, Turkey holds the control of the migration flows coming from the Middle East. This makes Turkey stronger while confronting with the EU”.


Deputy Foreign Minister Kıran: The state of the refugee camps in Greek islands is a humanitarian disaster

Date: 17/11/2020

Emphasizing that the treatment towards refugees is a disturbing issue, Deputy Foreign Minister Kıran stated, “The state of the refugee camps in Greek islands is a humanitarian disaster. In addition, we are deeply concerned about Greek officials pushing refugees back to our territory. Only this year, more than 7 thousand asylum seekers and refugees were push back by Greece”.

Kıran addressed the visitors at the Vienna Migration Conference. He pointed out that Turkey is in a very critical region. He said, “There are countries in our region with significant political and social problems. We are at the crossroads of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Our burden is not limited to the humanitarian tragedy in Syria. We also need to confront and manage other conflicts in our region. Ultimately, Turkey has become the country that hosts the most number of refugees in the past 6 years. We are actively responding to the needs of 4 million refugees in our lands. Our expenses for the refugees have exceeded 4 billion dollars”.

He added that the pandemic has increased the burden on Turkey: “We have recorded a significant increase in the movement into our country in the past couple of months. We have exceeded our capacity and we cannot take on another migration crisis. Therefore, we need to re-evaluate our migration strategy by taking the pandemic into consideration. We need to prioritize the following issues: First, the international community needs to understand that the strategy to stop migration flows from transit countries is an efficient one. Hosting countries need to receive the necessary help to keep the migration flows sustainable. The international community should help these countries to increase their capacity to solve problems. We also need to solve political and social issues leading to the migration crisis. This both means to take on responsibility to provide help and to be committed to solving problems in reasonably and peacefully. We are doing our part in this sense”.

“We have provided help to 156 countries and 9 international organizations during the pandemic. Turkey has become the second biggest country in the world to be an aid donor. We also provide medical help to the refugees. In my opinion, it is significant to be a role model to encourage other countries to share the burden. However, no country can deal with this problem alone. Migration is a global issue and it requires efficient international collaboration. All stake-holders, primarily the EU, should support international efforts. I believe that the most important missing link is a migration policy that considers the underlying reasons behind migration. In addition, it is crucial that migrants and refugees are provided the means to return to their homes safely and voluntarily. Voluntary return is the most preferrable and sustainable solution to this problem. We should increase global and regional efforts for this. It is very important for us that Syrians return to their home country safely.”


EU-Turkey relations at historical low point - European Parliament report

Date: 14/11/2020

Turkey’s “continuous and growing distancing from European values and standards” has pushed the country’s relationship with the European Union “to a historical low point, having deteriorated to such an extent that it requires both parties to profoundly reassess the current framework of relations,” said the European Parliament (EP) in a draft report.

The draft of the EP’s 2019-2020 Commission Reports on Turkey[5]published on Wednesday, stated an aim of strengthening relations between Turkish and European societies, combatting prejudice, and “supporting Turkey’s independent civil society in whatever circumstances and framework of relations that the future may bring”.

“The accession process would still be the most powerful tool to exercise normative pressure on the Turkish government and the best framework to sustain the democratic and pro-European aspirations of Turkish society,” it said, stressing that “a purely transactional relationship will hardly contribute to the advancement of Turkey towards a more democratic model”.

The EP is deeply worried about the “disregard by the Turkish judiciary of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings and the increasing non-compliance of lower courts with the judgments of the Constitutional Court,” it added.

According to the report, despite previous calls by the EP for the formal suspension of accession negotiations with Turkey, the European Council has offered the country a “renewed and broad positive agenda,” to once again try and restore the relations with Europe.

The report mentioned Turkey’s lack of commitment to implementing EU reforms, and expressed deep concern over the backslide of the rule of law and fundamental rights, Turkey’s recent regressive institutional reforms, and the country’s confrontational foreign policy as well as a growing anti-EU narrative.

“No incentive that the EU could offer can ever replace the much-needed political will to build a mature democracy,” it said, adding that the situation in Turkey had “far from improving, deteriorated even further.” The EP “firmly” insisted on the formal suspension of negotiations as suggested in last year’s report, so both sides could assess whether the current framework was functioning, or “explore possible new models for future relations”.

The EP “regrets the current lack of understanding between the EU and Turkey,” the report said, “but reaffirms its firm conviction that Turkey is a strategic neighbour and ally with which the EU wishes to have the best possible relations”.

The impact of the post-coup state of emergency between 2016 and 2018 continues to be felt on fundamental rights and democracy, according to the report, and the EP “deeply regrets that this repressive form of rule has now become a deliberate, relentless, systematic state policy”.

Such repression extends to “any critical activities,” the report said, citing Kurdish activism and the Gezi protests of 2013, and adding that Turkey’s anti-terror laws were both overly broad, and being abused to implement such policies.

The EP condemned the pressure placed on judges, prosecutors, lawyers and bar associations, while expressing serious concern over arbitrary curtailing of freedom of expression, press freedom and access to information.

The report condemned violence by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has been on the EU’s terror list for 18 years, while also condemning the continued detention of Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HPD), and the “specific and continuous” targeting of the party as opposition parties are pressured, undermining “the proper functioning of a democratic system”.

EP called on Turkey “to release all imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and others” detained on “unsubstantiated charges,” and mentioned philanthropist Osman Kavala by name, as the prominent civil society figure remains behind bars despite an ECHR ruling and his acquittal of several charges against him.

There is a vibrant, plural, engaged and heterogeneous civil society in Turkey still, in spite of the massive political crackdown, and it represents one of the few remaining checks on the Turkish government, the report said.


Refugee boat sunk: 74 refugees died

Date: 12/11/2020

A boat going to Europe broke down near Libya and sunk into the Mediterranean. 74 refugees died and 47 of them were rescued by the Coast Guard and fishermen.


Another lifeboat sunk in the Mediterranean: 6 people died including a baby

Date: 12/11/2020

In the rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, 110 refugees were rescued but 6 of them died one of which was a baby.

Frontex’s air patrols noticed the lifeboat near Libya in the morning, and Open Arms teams reached the area. The lifeboat was split in half during the operation, causing 6 people to die and 4 to be seriously injured.


Assad blames West for hindering return of refugees to Syria

Date: 11/11/2020

DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian government is working to secure the return of millions of refugees who fled war in their country, but Western sanctions are hindering the work of state institutions, complicating those plans, President Bashar Assad said Wednesday.

His comments came at the opening session of a Russia-organized two-day international conference in Damascus on the return of refugees. The event is being boycotted by many Arab and Western countries and has been criticized by the U.N. and the U.S. who say the time is not ripe yet for the return of refugees. They insist the first priority should be to make it safe for people to go back to the war-torn country.

Assad’s forces have recaptured much of Syria, with the backing of his allies Russia and Iran, which helped tip the balance of power in his favour. But large areas remain outside government control, mainly in the north near the border with Turkey. The conflict that began with anti-government protests in March 2011 as part of the region’s Arab Spring, quickly morphed into a civil war.

Tuesday’s conference was held in a giant hall with participants, most of them wearing masks, observing social distancing because of the coronavirus. Many countries were invited but only 27 agreed to participate, including neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq which host large numbers of Syrian refugees, according to state TV.

Neighbouring Turkey, a main backer of Syrian opposition forces, was not invited. Another neighbour, Jordan, which also hosts Syrian refugees, did not participate.


President Erdoğan: We are hoping for the EU to recover from their strategic blindness

Date: 09/11/2020

President Erdoğan gave a speech at the Ambassadors Conference.

As part of his speech he said, “With our presence in Idlib, we had prevented another tragedy and a big migration flow. We host 4,5 million refugees. We take care of another 4,5 million in Syria.  There is no other country in the world that does anything similar, only Turkey. No one who says that they stand by the poor and vulnerable takes any action. The representatives of capitalism, the ones who are rich do nothing close to what Turkey does, which is taking the humanitarian step. Beside our presence on the field, we continue to search for political solutions for Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity”.


EU: Probe Frontex Complicity in Border Abuses

Date: 09/11/2020

(Brussels) – The top governing body of the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) should urgently establish an independent inquiry into allegations of its involvement in unlawful operations to stop migrants from reaching the European Union (EU), Human Rights Watch said today.

The agency’s board will hold an extraordinary meeting on November 10, 2020. Frontex should also address serious and persistent violations by border and law enforcement officers of the countries where it operates.

“The fact that Frontex may have become complicit in abuses at Greece’s borders is extremely serious,” said Eva Cossé, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Management Board of Frontex should quickly open an inquiry into Frontex involvement in – or actions to disregard or cover up – abuses against people seeking protection from conflicts and persecution.”

On October 23, a group of media outlets published a detailed investigative report[6] alleging Frontex involvement in pushback operations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, in the Aegean Sea. The reports said that asylum seekers and migrants were prevented from reaching EU soil or were forced out of EU waters. Such pushbacks violate international law, Human Rights Watch said.


Lifeboat carrying refugees sunk in the Aegean Sea

Date: 09/11/2020

The lifeboat carrying refugees who were attempting to reach Island Samos from Turkey sunk on Sunday. A 6-year old child died; 17 refugees were rescued and 7 refugees reached the shore by swimming.

On the other hand, UNHCR reported[7] that there has been a significant decline in the number of people trying to reach Greek islands from Turkey this year. They announced that the number of refugees who entered the Greek islands was 9,247 by Nov 1st, 2020, while this number last year was 52,553.


Austria Foreign Minister: Turkey will not be an EU member for the next 30 years

Date: 08/11/2020

Austria Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg stated that Turkey will not be an EU member state for the coming thirty years. He said, “As the EU, we are open to discuss any suggestions that help us show Turkey the red lines”.

In the interview he gave to Die Welt, he stated, “Turkey is moving further away from the EU. As the EU Commission’s most recent report[8] also confirms, the Turkish government does not abide by the Copenhagen Criteria concerning the rule of law and human rights that are mandatory for EU membership”. He suggested that the two sides need to start working on a partnership agreement that suits the interests of both sides immediately instead of membership negotiations.

After being reminded of the words of Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, regarding the abolishment of the customs union agreement between Turkey and the EU, he said, “I am glad that the awareness that we are at a crossroads with Turkey is increasing within the EU”.


Former UN Senior Advisor for Syria Jan Egeland complements Turkey for hosting refugees

Date: 05/11/2020

Former UN Senior Advisor for Syria and the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egelend said, “The leaders of Europe; you should look at how Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Liberia opened their borders and hearts for the asylum-seekers.”

He added that the European countries, which has the necessary resources to provide asylum for refugees and asylum-seekers should not place the burden on other countries.

Egeland also cited a study that looked into the countries that received the most refugees. The study highlighted that Turkey received up to 4.3 million refugees, more than any other country in the past decade, and also added that Turkey handled the refugee crisis better than Lebanon.


The 7th “Academicians’ Meeting for Harmonization” took place

Date: 04/11/2020

The 7th “Academicians’ Meeting for Harmonization” took place online as part of the collaboration between Directorate General of Migration Management Department of Harmonization and Communication and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The event encompasses 7 geographic regions in Turkey and the last meeting focused on the Marmara region. The General Director of Migration Management, Dr. Savaş Ünlü, stated, “Academic analyses, findings, the data you gather in the field are of utmost importance for us. I have complete faith in the information and knowledge you will share with us”.

The introductory speeches were followed by presentations on social harmonization. 65 migration scholars brainstormed about harmonization and discussed examples of good practice, observed impediments, and suggestions.