COMMITTEE ON THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS AND MEMBERS OF THEIR FAMILIES
CONSIDERATION OF THE INITIAL REPORT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS AND MEMBERS OF THEIR FAMILIES
(GENEVA, 14 APRIL 2015)
HE AMBASSADOR MEHMET FERDEN ÇARIKÇI,
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF TURKEY TO THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA
Honourable Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Committee,
It is a privilege for us to be here to present the initial report of the Republic of Turkey before this eminent Committee. Our delegation is composed of experts representing a wide range of institutions, namely the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Education, the General Directorate for Migration Management and the Ombudsman’s Institution. I would like to highlight the fact that one of them, Mr Mehmet Sevim is a former Member of this eminent Committee.
Mr Chairperson, taking this opportunity, I would like to extend to you our sincere congratulations on your appointment earlier this week. We are convinced that, having been one of the most experienced members of the Committee, you will fulfil this important task with great success.
Having been party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families for more than 10 years, Turkey has decided last year to contribute to the work of the Committee by nominating Mr Can Ünver as a Member. Today, we are pleased to see him among the Committee Members. We sincerely believe that with the experience that he has accumulated over many decades as a high-level public servant as well as a scholar in relevant fields, he will be of great service to the laudable endeavours of the Committee. His membership stands as a concrete example of Turkey’s continuous commitment to the Convention.
This session of the Committee is the first one after the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention. I greet you all again on this meaningful occasion.
25 years on from the adoption of the Convention, despite the progress achieved in protecting and promoting the rights of all migrant workers, challenges and threats have multiplied along with the needs and aspirations of individuals. With the global upsurge in human mobility, the number of migrants are on the rise. Every single day, conflicts and other destabilizing factors are forcing thousands of people to leave their homelands.
We believe that, to face these challenges, the framework depicted by the Convention is a great tool, in the service of mankind, to be duly taken into consideration by all states. While the relevance of the Convention remains undisputed, there is a need to increase the number of States Parties, which are, after 25 years, only 48 as of today. More importantly, in a world where people are constantly on the move, it has to be ensured that the geographical coverage of States parties be enlarged.
There are over 6 million Turks living as migrant workers mainly in Europe, but also in many countries of the world. Taking care of their various needs as well as for helping them on their return home is a top priority for Turkey. Indeed, the responsibility to take necessary measures in this regard is guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, the enlargement of the Convention’s coverage is a crucial issue for us in terms of upholding their rights.
It is a fact that no WEOG country except Turkey is a party to the Convention. Likewise, apart from a few countries, the Convention is not in force in most of Asia. In the current state of affairs in world migration tendencies, this means that millions of migrant workers in those countries are deprived of the best protection provided by the Convention.
The 25th anniversary of the Convention last December was a good occasion to promote the need for universal adoption. To this end, Turkey spares no effort for stressing the relevance of the Convention, encouraging countries to sign and ratify this crucial document. For instance, in the context of Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review mechanism, Turkey is one of the few countries which always insists on making recommendations for the ratification of the Convention intended for the states that are not a party. We expect the Committee to reflect on ways and means to realize the goal of enlarging the coverage area of the Convention.
In full recognition of these challenges, I would like to reiterate Turkey’s full commitment to uphold the rights of all migrant workers and their family members as defined in the Convention. I believe that the dialogue between the Committee and the members of our Delegation today and tomorrow will constitute a constructive occasion for the continuation of our common efforts to this end.
Following the publication of the list of issues by the Committee, its questions were diligently assessed by our relevant authorities, and answers provided in detail. Also, our answers take inspiration from the general context of the ongoing human rights reform process in Turkey, which includes the issues pertaining to the rights of migrant workers. The outcomes of our current dialogue will be given due consideration as well.
Let me begin with a brief overview on the institutional framework and the human rights policy priorities of Turkey with special emphasis on the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and the recent reform steps taken in this field.
[The institutional and policy framework]
Turkey firmly upholds the principle that all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights. The main philosophy of Turkey’s human rights policy can be summarized as “Human rights for all with no discrimination.”
Respect for human rights is an inviolable and permanent principle of the Constitution.
The constitutional system in Turkey is based on the equality of all individuals without discrimination before the law, irrespective of “language, race, colour, gender, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such consideration” (Art. 10, Constitution).
The Turkish society is not a juxtaposition of communities or groups. It is rather an amalgamation of individuals from various backgrounds, who have found their home in this land throughout centuries. Thus, everyone is equal before the law irrespective of their origins in terms of language, race, colour, ethnicity, religion or any other such particularity, and their fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed in accordance with the relevant law.
This vision ensures the equality of opportunity and treatment in employment or occupation, access to medical care and education.
[Human rights policy priorities of Turkey]
Honourable Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Committee,
It is the primary responsibility of States to respond and live up to the democratic needs in the field of human rights.
With this understanding, an ambitious reform process on human rights is being conducted in Turkey approximately for the last 15 years in full transparency. In the course of time, this process has become more systematized and regularized with several reform packages including comprehensive sets of constitutional amendments. In this vein, the Government of Turkey continuously reviews its laws and regulations with a view to bringing them further in line with Turkey’s international human rights obligations and commitments. Relevant governmental institutions closely monitor the legislation and its implementation and accordingly propose amendments where necessary. Representatives of civil society are also involved in the reform process as appropriate.
These reforms aim at the furtherance of strengthening democracy, promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consolidating the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, with special emphasis on the issues related to the rights of migrants when appropriate.
The first pillar of this process is directed at the revision of the relevant legislation. The second priority area is the advancement of national remedies through the reinforcement of existing national human rights mechanisms, to contribute to the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms. Finally, training of civil servants, awareness raising programs as well as high-level dialogue with relevant stakeholders constitute indispensable elements in order to put the new legal and institutional framework into practice.
First, I would like to touch upon the progress we have achieved in the legislative field in respect to the rights of migrants in general;
- With the Constitutional amendments approved by the referendum of 12 September 2010:
Positive discrimination in respect of women, children, the disabled and the elderly is now recognized as a Constitutional right. In this context, the introduction of a “special measures” clause for the first time in the Constitution is a significant improvement to strengthen the protection of constitutional rights of these people.
The protection of personal data is safeguarded by the Constitution, as well as by a relevant Law which was enacted just last week by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
Rights of children are guaranteed in the Constitution and the right to information were defined as a Constitutional right for the first time.
The right to vote and to be elected have been further strengthened.
Disciplinary provisions for civil servants and other public officers have been included in the scope of judicial review.
All these Constitutional amendments have contributed to strengthening the principle of equality and to ensuring equal access of all individuals without discrimination to fundamental rights and freedoms.
- A number of “Judicial reform packages” were adopted over the last five years, with the aim of further strengthening the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, further enhancing its efficacy, further facilitating access to justice, further expanding the scope of freedoms and ensuring further improvements in the freedom of expression. These packages include substantial legislative amendments to the Turkish Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Anti-Terror Law, and Press Law, having positive effects on anti-discrimination measures.
- The new Law on Foreigners and International Protection was enacted on 11 April 2013. The law has greatly contributed to filling the gap left by the absence of an asylum law in Turkey and harmonizing the legislation with the EU Acquis on the basis of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention. Detailed information on the implementation of the Law is provided in the report. I will highlight certain provisions of the Law, just to give examples during my presentation.
Secondly, significant progress has also been made as to the advancement of the national remedies through the creation of several bodies.
- The National Human Rights Institution of Turkey was established on 21 June 2012 by the entry into force of the relevant Law. The institution fulfils the criteria set out by the UN Paris Principles, such as establishment by law, broad mandate, independence and pluralism. The application for the upgrade of its accreditation status has already been made earlier this year. The revised version of the founding law of the Institution was enacted just last week by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. This new law aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of the NHRI and establishes new structures at the provincial level.
- The Ombudsman’s Institution, has started functioning as an independent and impartial institution as of 29 March 2013. It contributes to the protection and promotion of human rights in the sphere of public administration. It is to be noted that the Ombudsman Institution has prepared a draft amending its founding law with a view to ensuring that more recommendations will be implemented in the future and that complaints will be resolved in a more effective manner.
According to the Law establishing the Ombudsman’s Institution, foreigners can also place complaints to the
Institution. While the Ombudsman has no authority to intervene in decisions on migration by any institution, it may make suggestions to withdraw or abolish the decisions if violation of rights and interests are detected as a result of the decision taken.
Thirdly, I would like to mention steps taken to put the new legal and institutional framework into practice:
Our report enlists numerous training programs aimed mostly at the civil servants who are primarily in charge of effective implementation of the laws. Security forces composed of the police and thegendarmerie, members of the judicial branch, notably judges, prosecutors and lawyers from all levels have beenreceivingtraining on human rights issues.
Moreover, awareness raising activities have been expanded to include students of all levels, civil society and the public at large. Raising the level of awareness throughout the whole society is vital for the establishment of a sound human rights regime in the country. Therefore, human rights education at all levels has been strongly promoted. In order to minimize difficulties before the implementation and to create an institutional culture respectful to human rights, bilateral programs with several countries and joint projects with the Council of Europe and the EU are carried out.
The establishment of a sound human rights regime also involves active participation of the civil society. While the methods of consultation vary, from high level contacts to organization of workshops, the civil society inputs are highly cherished and carefully considered throughout the reform process in Turkey.
Honourable Members of the Committee and Distinguished Participants,
Following this quick overview of human rights framework, please allow me to turn to the specific issue of migrants.
The world is undergoing an unprecedented period of time. Global displacement is at the highest level ever recorded. Of the 60 million forcibly displaced, nearly 20 million are refugees and half of these refugees are children.
Turkey has a strong tradition of responding to affected peoples in need. In fact, Turkey’s land has historically been home to countless peoples, regardless of their religious, ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, who had to flee their original lands in dire need.
Regarding the integration policies including those on migrants as well as refugees, fundamental rights and freedoms set forth in the Constitution do not lead to any distinction between Turkish citizens and foreigners. These rights and freedoms are in principle recognized for everybody regardless of citizenship in line with Article 10 of the Constitution. Exceptions to this principle are done only in line with the articles of the Constitution and in compliance with our international treaty obligations.
To strengthen this perspective, a landmark legislation was enacted in 2013. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection, which is the basic legal framework in respect of foreigners, applicants for international protection and regular and irregular immigrants was put in force on 11 April 2013
following a transparent and participatory process together with all national and international stakeholders, including the UNHCR and the IOM
. The Law sets the basis for the establishment of the Directorate General for Migration Management as attached to the Ministry of Interior. The Directorate is in charge of implementing policies and strategies concerning migration issues, maintaining coordination among various institutions, and carrying out actions and proceedings pertaining to foreigners’ entry and residence in Turkey, their exit and deportation, international protection, temporary protection and protection of victims of human trafficking.
As a result of the new Law, the principle of non-refoulement
which was already respected by Turkey has gained legal basis with respect to those who have the risk of facing torture or similar inhuman treatment. The procedure relating to humanitarian residence permit and subsidiary protection mechanisms have been defined and “temporary protection” to be provided in cases of massive influx has been codified for the first time.
Additionally, the law allows for a work permit exemption for foreigners in certain conditions.
For the effective implementation of the Law, relevant legislative arrangements have been realized swiftly. Most of the circulars pertaining to various practical dimensions of the Law have been released in the year and a half after its adoption. Furthermore, a National Action Plan on Migration and Asylum and an “Irregular Migration Strategy Paper and National Action Plan” were prepared last year. As a result, joint projects with partner governments are ongoing in order to enhance the capacity and readiness of relevant institutions. Additionally, work is underway for the drafting of a Migration Management Strategy Document.
At this point, I would like to emphasize that all these efforts towards implementation have been deployed in a very challenging environment, when the migration crisis was at its apex.
A comprehensive awareness-raising campaign has been conducted in order to facilitate the integration and acceptance of the new Law within the legislative framework. Specifically, meetings were held with various public institutions in order to ensure its effective implementation. Likewise, extensive consultations were organized with relevant authorities regarding the harmonisation of foreigners. Additionally, “Migration Post” Bulletin, the periodical of the Directorate General, is being published trimonthly and delivered to related public institutions working for increasing awareness and sensitivity about foreigners and migration.
Similarly, a series of best practices are being progressively introduced for securing the access to information regarding the lives of migrants. A wide array of brochures and booklets are published for the interest of migrants. Efforts are continuing to establish a Children’s Web Page and Communication Center for Foreigners (ALO 157) to serve in four different languages. In the meantime, the text of the new Law was translated into ten different languages and translation work in seven other languages (Italian, Spanish, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, Arabic and Persian) is ongoing. Moreover, Turkish language courses are provided in three pilot provinces (Kayseri, Konya and Afyonkarahisar) in order to better harmonize the foreigners residing in Turkey with the society. It is envisaged that the courses will be expanded to include all provinces this year, if required.
One of the novelties of the new Law is the regulation of harmonization for the first time in Turkish national legislation. In order to identify the road map of harmonization, workshops are being arranged with academicians and civil society, and discussions held to find solutions to problems the migrants. To establish a sound National Strategy Document for Harmonization, as well as a National Action Plan, a joint project with the International Organization for Migration is being conducted. The expected output of the project is to make harmonization an inseparable part of the migration management system in Turkey. With the introduction of the strategy, the inclusion of other related public policies in areas of education, health and employment in harmonization policies shall be ensured.
Honourable Members, Distinguished Participants,
Having outlined the specific legislative framework, l
et me now dwell upon a current issue, the situation of Syrians living in Turkey. The most touching consequence of the conflict in Syria has been the humanitarian tragedy it triggered. It is the Syrian crisis which has caused the global upsurge in the masses of people in the move. As the conflict in the country entered its sixth year, more than 11 million people have been compelled to flee their homes. Around 6.5 million people have been internally displaced and more than 4.6 million people have sought shelter in neighboring countries.
Unfortunately, these numbers do not seem to decline. On the contrary, migration flows from Syria still continue. Thus, the situation of displaced Syrians requires continued international attention.
Turkey, maintains an “open door” policy for Syrians without any form of discrimination since 2011. We strictly comply with the principle of non-refoulement. There is no change in this policy.
Currently, Turkey hosts more than 2.7 million Syrians
(2.747.946 registered) seeking protection and assistance, not to mention around 300 thousand Iraqis hosted in Turkey too.
This makes Turkey the biggest refugee-hosting nation in the world.
270.000 Syrians accommodated in 26 temporary protection centers are provided with food, non-food items, health and education services as well as psychological support, vocational training and social activities. In addition to that, Syrians who live outside these centers are also under our temporary protection regime and they benefit from free healthcare and education services.
Our policy is based on humanitarian responsibility and international law. We have mobilized all our resources and capabilities to address the needs of these people on behalf of the international community.
The aim of Turkey is not only to save the lives and provide a safe harbor for the Syrian asylum-seekers but also to improve their living conditions. With this understanding, Syrians were allowed to access the labour market in Turkey as of January 2016.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to touch upon the issue of education in detail. Out of 750 thousand school-age Syrian children in Turkey, almost 400 thousand miss on schooling. New schools, classrooms and teachers are needed to eliminate this gap in school enrollment.
To illustrate our practice on education, I will mention a model project initiated by the Ministry of National Education. The Ministry has organized training courses in cooperation with UNICEF to support the Syrian teachers who teach on a volunteer basis in education centers set up for Syrian children under temporary protection. This project helped to develop new training methods for Syrian teachers on a wide range of subjects, such as education in emergency situations, crowded classroom management, preparation of a lesson plan and coping with trauma. Likewise, the Ministry of National Education has launched a joint project with the UNHCR in order to support the education of Syrian children, aiming to enhance the capabilities of relevant institutions for the teaching of the Turkish language.
On the other hand, the fact that 152 thousand Syrian babies are born in Turkey, is worthy of attention. We should not forget that it is our joint responsibility to give these children a good start in life.
Turkey's endeavours to secure the well-being of Syrians has so far generated costs reaching 10 billion US Dollars, whereas the total contributions from the international community have been below the expected levels, with an amount of 462 million Dollars.
Other countries hosting large refugee populations face similar challenges, too. The responsibility to cope with the Syrian humanitarian crisis cannot be left to forefront countries alone. Proximity does not necessarily require responsibility. Any failure at responsibility-sharing would result in unbearable costs for all the members of the international community. Therefore, we should join our efforts for the sake of our common future.
In addition, we should also keep in mind that displaced people need more than emergency response. They also need a prospect for the future. It is our duty to help them build their own future. In this framework, resettlement and other legal pathways for admission of Syrians offer a window of opportunity for the international community to share the responsibility for Syrians more equitably.
Having said that, I also would like to touch upon the recent agreement between Turkey and the EU, concluded on 18 March 2016.
With this agreement, we reached a game changer understanding to completely stem irregular crossings in the Aegean. The agreement is based only on humanitarian purposes. Our main objective is to prevent loss of lives in the Aegean, crush the migrant smuggling networks and replace irregular migration with regular migration.
In fact, we have been taking all necessary measures to end the irregular migration in the Aegean. While there were 6.827 irregular crossings on daily average in October, this figure decreased to 2.174 in January, 1.967 in February and only 900 in March.
Since our agreement has become operational on 20 March, we witness a dramatic decline in numbers. For the first time, daily arrivals to Greek islands slumped to three-digit numbers in consecutive days, and on average less than 100 migrants reached the islands in the last 10 days.
Apparently, the agreement between Turkey and the EU has made a significant contribution to the decrease in the crossings.
We started to take back all irregular migrants as of 4 April, while on the same date resettlement of Syrians in Turkey started towards the EU countries in accordance with "1 for 1" formula that fully respects international norms. If it is effectively implemented by both sides, we are confident that it will yield concrete results in a very short term, and we will be able to stop the irregular crossings completely.
Honourable Members and Distinguished Participants,
This quick outline reflects how Turkey strives to maintain an advanced level of comprehensive policies in the field of the rights of migrant workers. Naturally, all remedies are available against violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, including acts of discrimination.
Turkey believes that promoting and protecting the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families require combined efforts at national and international levels.
With this understanding, Turkey has long become party to all relevant international instruments both at global and regional fora, such as the UN, ILO and the Council of Europe, and duly maintains a close and constructive cooperation with the special mechanisms of these organizations tasked with upholding the rights of migrant workers.
In this connection, we believe that the CMW assumes a crucial mission. With the new challenges facing our societies across the world, the need to stress the plight of migrants is more acute than ever.
Despite all the efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights, violations persist in many parts of the world as no country is flawless in this regard. This is indeed the driving philosophy behind the creation of international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights, including those of migrant workers.
Thus, we are determined to maintain and further develop our close and constructive cooperation with the CMW.
I thank you for your attention.
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