The role of Turkey in the refugee crisis (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: The role of Turkey in the refugee crisis (own-initiative opinion)

Composition of the study group

Key points

  • The EESC recognises that Turkey is playing a crucial and decisive role in managing the so-called refugee crisis in the Middle East and Mediterranean region and has endeavoured to tackle the problem using its own means, though with additional assistance from the EU and the international community.
  • In the view of the EESC, despite the explosive situation of the so-called "refugee crisis", to this day the EU has failed to put in place a credible and effective common European immigration policy or a common European asylum system. It urges the Council and the Commission to work more resolutely on this issue, and to oblige those Member States which fail to comply with their European commitments to take the required measures immediately.
  • The EESC strongly condemns the xenophobic attitude of some Member States to the refugee crisis and considers this stance to be contrary to the fundamental values of the EU.
  • The EESC considers it necessary for Turkey to draw up a uniform system for granting international protection to asylum seekers, in accordance with international and European standards, which does not discriminate against those applying for international protection on the basis of their national origin, granting uniform protection to all of them. Among other things, it suggests removing the geographical limitation for non-European asylum seekers and the distinction between Syrian and non-Syrian asylum seekers. The principle of non-refoulement must also be guaranteed.
  • The EESC considers it necessary to improve accommodation conditions in Turkey, as well as the policies on the social and economic integration of recognised refugees, in particular with regard to access to employment, healthcare, education and housing. Special attention should be paid to the protection of unaccompanied minors and children, particularly as regards access to education and protection from forced labour and forced marriage.
  • The EESC calls for a serious, independent monitoring and surveillance mechanism to be set up in respect of the EU-Turkey Statement on refugees in order to monitor – in cooperation with the Turkish authorities, international NGOs and specialised humanitarian organisations – both sides’ implementation of and compliance with the terms agreed, pursuant to international and European law.
  • The EESC considers it essential to strengthen the role of the European Border and Coastguard Agency in order to dismantle trafficking networks and combat people smuggling, in line with international law.
  • The EESC calls for full compliance on the part of the EU Member States that have not so far participated in the relocation and resettlement procedures, and for the relevant programmes to be speeded up.
  • The EESC is deeply concerned about the general human rights situation in Turkey. Specifically, it is concerned that civil society organisations cannot function unhindered in Turkey, particularly in the wake of the declaration of a state of emergency, and considers that they play a key role in the humanitarian situation of refugees in both the planning and implementation of programmes to integrate refugees into local communities. The EESC is of the view that the social partners can and must play a prominent role in Turkey in order to address the refugee crisis.