To the attention of public,
This is our information note to all national and international press, our supporters, and stakeholders concerning the refugee and migrant movement towards borders that started on February 28th, 2020.
Since the last days of February, crucial events are unfolding for refugees and migrants on Turkey’s border with Greece and Bulgaria. As a Turkey-based humanitarian aid association that has been actively working in Turkey, we have been with refugee communities under the framework of our “Refugee Support Program” for the past decade. Accordingly, we have the humanitarian obligation to carefully identify the current situation, correct course of action, provide humanitarian aid, and inform the public.
Upon news announcing that refugees’ passage from Turkey to Europe would not be interfered with, large numbers of refugees and migrants from various towns headed towards border area on the west. When their entry through European borders were not allowed, those that were directed towards the buffer area, Meriç River or sea line were met with harsh intervention. These recent events point to potential human rights violations, starting with the fundamental right to live, and life becomes difficult by the day who are waiting at the borders, deprived of the most basic amenities. Next to urgent humanitarian needs, we witness interventions that put people’s right to live at risk. We are deeply concerned to witness increased human trafficking, rising hate speech towards refugees, and even reports of individual aggression.
The situation report prepared by our emergency teams indicate that migrants accumulating at the border with the aim of passing on to Europe are mostly of Afghan and Iranian origin. Harsh winter conditions, intervention by the border police, the fact that numerous refugees started heading to sea border overnight, and risking life-threatening boat journeys is a strong reminder that everyday living conditions of these individuals must be put on focus. Although refugees in temporary protection in Turkey or those with international protection record have access to basic services given by the state at the cities they are registered in, they are still struggling with poverty, social cohesion risks, exclusion, and adaptation problems. People without official protection status do not have access basic services. As a result, for refugees and migrants struggling for dignified lives, ‘going to Europe’ becomes a bright dream even though its consequences are unclear.
Support to Life’s rapid assessment at the border demonstrate that many women, children, and infants have been spending their days and nights without shelter, exposed to cold and rainy weather conditions; or waiting in shanty tents at best. The immediate health risks are clear. In border areas where regular meals and basic food are not accessible, hygiene conditions are also quite concerning. There are great risks in terms of security of the masses. In addition to drownings in Meriç River, Greek border security, having declared a high-alert status, conducts tough push back actions, exposing individuals to risks of harm.
No matter what race, religion, nationality, or political affiliation they may have, everyone has the right to a dignified life and this right must be protected under all circumstances. As Support to Life, we would like to remind the public that our shared values of humanity oblige us to uphold everyone’s right to a dignified life and we must collectively defend equal access to humane living conditions. We would like to draw attention to our universal values that guide all our humanitarian aid efforts and advocate that every person in need must have access to humanitarian aid without distinction. In addition, we stress that policies and practices that expose people at risk must be avoided and the international community must support first responders in situations of humanitarian crises, so that we can collectively enable durable solutions.
You can find details of needs on border area on our ‘Edirne Pazarkule Field Situation Report’. Similarly, you can assist our information provision activities by helping us disseminate our Refugee Information Note that we prepared for refugees so that they are informed risks of harm they are exposed to.
Supporting life means providing protection for whoever is need. Now it is time for authorities and non-governmental organizations to come together to ameliorate existing risks of harm. We would like to thank you for your sensitivity towards the humanitarian crisis that is taking place and supporting people living in disaster conditions.