The detention centre in Pehlivankoy, Kirklareli - no access for lawyers. Photo: picture alliance / AP images

The Human Rights Organisation Multeci-DER is part of the PRO ASYL project »Refugee Support Program Aegean« (RSPA). Multeci-Der is monitoring the situation of refugees along the westcoast of Turkey, especially in Izmir. Fritz Rickert interviewed Irem Somer, RSPA - project coordinator of Multeci-Der about their work and occuring problems.

What is Mul­teci-Der actual­ly working on right now?

One of our focus­ses of our orga­niz­a­ti­on here in Izmir is to try to moni­tor the sea bor­der bet­ween Tur­key and Greece. By this we try to deter­mi­ne the situa­ti­on at the bor­ders, deter­mi­ne rights vio­la­ti­ons, pro­tec­tre­fu­gees against human rights vio­la­ti­ons and end impunity.

At the moment we are espe­cial­ly moni­to­ring the situa­ti­on of peop­le that are appre­hen­ded and detai­ned by the aut­ho­ri­ties when try­ing to reach the Greece islands in order to make sure that their rights are not vio­la­ted and that they are well informed. 

Could you descri­be the dyna­mic of the situa­ti­on here in the Aege­an region?

Until last year we regu­lar­ly had reports of  push backs of refu­gees who were try­ing to reach the Greek Islands by boat. When the num­ber of peop­le that cros­sed incre­a­sed and the public atten­ti­on­rai­sed, push-back­sstop­ped alt­hough they con­ti­nue on the land border. 

How would you descri­be the situa­ti­on here in Izmir sin­ce last summer?

Last year a lot more peop­le came to Izmir then befo­re. The arri­ving peop­le were loo­king for others that would help them to cross the bor­der to con­ti­nue their flight. We as an orga­niz­a­ti­on were often asked for regu­lar ways to reach Euro­pe but unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly arri­ving Euro­pe through regu­lar ways, such as resett­le­ment, huma­ni­ta­ri­an visa, fami­ly reuni­fi­ca­ti­on etc, is extermly dif­fi­cult. In Sum­mer 2015, hotels, mos­ques and parks in Izmir Bas­ma­ne were full of people.

A friend of mine who saw the situa­ti­on in Bas­ma­ne district descri­bed it as the best examp­le of civil dis­obe­dience she had seen in her life becau­se peop­le were clear­ly not giving any impor­t­ance to bor­ders as bor­ders had no mea­ning any­mo­re. The peop­le were just going to cross them. 

How is the situa­ti­on now?

With the upco­m­ing win­ter and the wor­se­ning of the wea­ther con­di­ti­ons the situa­ti­on chan­ged. At the moment on the streets you do not see refu­gees who are on the move. Though, the­re were and still are always cros­sings. Espe­cial­ly in Janu­a­ry and Febru­a­ry a lot of acci­dents hap­pen­ed. Even though when the con­di­tio­ned were bad peop­le took the risk and tried to cross sin­ce they were afraid of the con­se­quen­ces of the deal. 

Now the deal is set into for­ce sin­ce the 20th of March. What con­se­quen­ces do you obser­ve con­cer­ning the situa­ti­on of the peop­le on the flight?

On the one side the situa­ti­on on the Greek islands chan­ged dra­ma­ti­cal­ly. Peop­le that cros­sed to the islands after the 20th of March are now stran­ded on the islands facing very bad and inhu­man living con­di­ti­ons, not important if they are detai­ned in one of the hot­spots or if they stay outside.

Alt­hough not all peop­le on the islands face phy­si­cal­ly bars and impr­i­son­ment in a clas­si­cal way in prac­ti­ce the islands are a big open air pri­son for the refu­gees. Nobo­dy of them can go to the main­land. The only way to move is to sign a paper to ‚vol­un­ta­ry‘ return to Turkey. 

»We neit­her know exact­ly who is detai­ned, on what exact legal ground, for how long nor do we know the con­di­ti­ons they are facing. Nobo­dy knows what is going on.«

Irem Som­mer, Multeci-DER

What else has changed?

Second­ly bes­i­des the wor­se­ning  situa­ti­on of the refu­gees on the Greek islands, peop­le who are in need of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion and face pro­se­cu­ti­on are being retur­ned to Tur­key, which is com­ple­te­ly against the inter­na­tio­nal stan­dards and against the reas­suran­ces made in the deal. 

And moni­to­ring the­se push backs or read­mis­si­ons how the aut­ho­ri­ties call them is one your focus­ses now?

Yes, we are try­ing to moni­tor the situa­ti­on of the peop­le who are being depor­ted from the islands and detai­ned in Turkey. 

How would you descri­be their situation?

So far the peop­le sent back to Tur­key get detai­ned right away in a camp in the nor­thwest of Tur­key. Actual­ly it is one of the seven detenti­on cen­ters that were finan­ced by Euro­pean Uni­on. Con­cer­ning the situa­ti­on of the detai­ned peop­le so far we have big trou­bles to get any infor­ma­ti­on. We are working on this issue but we see reluc­tance for coope­ra­ti­on from the authorities.

Try­ing to get infor­ma­ti­on from the aut­ho­ri­ties we are run­ning against walls. Not just us but civil socie­ty in gene­ral do not get access to the detenti­on camp but as well our lawy­er was not allo­wed to speak to the detai­ned refu­gees (see press release). Still our lawy­er was not able to have appro­pria­te con­ta­ct with peop­le inside.

The gene­ral con­di­ti­on of the detenti­on camp as well as the situa­ti­on of almost all the peop­le insi­de the detenti­on cen­ter remains unclear. We neit­her know exact­ly who is detai­ned, on what exact legal ground, for how long nor do we know the con­di­ti­ons they are facing. Nobo­dy knows what is going on. 

So what can you say so far con­cer­ning the depor­ted and detai­ned people?

What beco­mes clear is that a lot of peop­le had asyl­um claims but were not allo­wed to hand in their asyl­um app­li­ca­ti­on in Greece. Against the deal and inter­na­tio­nal law. 

What are the next steps you are taking now?

We will fur­ther try to sup­port the depor­ted peop­le and will con­ti­nue moni­to­ring the deve­lo­p­ments. For this we will try to faci­li­ta­te the detai­ned with lawy­ers on the one hand. For­tu­n­a­te­ly a lot of refu­gee sup­por­ting acti­vists both s in Greece and Tur­key are try­ing hard to find out true names of the depor­ted peop­le and hand them to us. A work that is very important to us. The­re­fo­re on the other hand enfor­cing the col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with tho­se net­works is a cen­tral ques­ti­on for the future.

It is a good deve­lo­p­ment that the­re is a gro­wing num­ber of peop­le actual­ly prac­ti­cal­ly chal­len­ging the deal. We need more col­la­bo­ra­ti­on like this.