Biden Urged to Raise Concerns Over Refugee and Civil Society Protection While in Turkey
New York City – As Vice President Biden visits Turkey, Human Rights First today calls on him to praise Turkey for providing safety to more than 2.2 million vulnerable Syrian refugees and for the Turkish government’s recent announcement that it will extend work permits to Syrian refugees. The organization also urges Vice President Biden to highlight concerns about the closing of Turkey’s border with Syria to those who should be allowed to pass, shutting out refugees who are seeking safety in Turkey and making it impossible for Syrian human rights and democracy activists to conduct their work. Vice President Biden is in Turkey today and tomorrow to meet with President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“Since war broke out in Syria, Turkey has welcomed and provided safety to many of the more than 4 million Syrians who have fled the horrific violence and conflict,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Turkey and the region. “Vice President Biden should commend Turkey’s recent announcement that Syrian refugees will be allowed to work to provide for their families. But Turkey has also implemented border restrictions which have prohibited many more Syrian refugees from crossing into safety, while also severely limiting the ability of Syrian human rights activists to cross the border in order to do their vital work. Biden should raise these concerns during his meetings, and urge President Erdogan to lift these onerous restrictions.”
In July, Turkey implemented new border restrictions that have effectively closed the border for refugees and civil society activists. Syrian human rights activists, who are running dozens of programs in Syria to promote good local governance, expose corruption, and fight sectarianism, have reported that the border restrictions has forced them to cut essential training programs and severely limit their work. Some activists have been forced to risk their lives by crossing the border illegally in dangerous areas in order to continue their work. The Turkish authorities have blocked refugees from crossing at other times over the last few years as well.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, and 7.6 million are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Frontline states and key U.S. allies including Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan continue to host the majority of the approximately 4 million refugees who have fled Syria, struggling under the strain of hosting so many refugees.
Human Rights First continues to urge the Obama Administration to demonstrate global leadership to address the Syrian refugee crisis by increasing its commitment to resettle Syrian refugees and by increasing humanitarian aid and support for frontline countries including Turkey.