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.«
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.