Academic journal article Migration Letters

Deconstructing Turkey's "Open Door" Policy towards Refugees from Syria 1

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Deconstructing Turkey's "Open Door" Policy towards Refugees from Syria 1

Article excerpt


Turkey has followed an "open door" policy towards refugees from Syria since the March 2011 outbreak of the devastating civil war in Syria. This "liberal" policy has been accompanied by a "humanitarian discourse" regarding the admission and accommodation of the refugees. In such a context, Turkey's efforts have been widely praised and well-received both inside and outside the country. However, the article argues that, the stated "open door" approach and its limitations are not critically examined as needed. The assertion is, here, refugees fleeing Syria have been administered in a security framework embedding exclusionary, militarized and technologized border practices; in other words, they have been securitized. Drawing on the critical border studies, the article deconstructs these practices and the way they are violating the principle of non-refoulement in particular and human rights of refugees in general.

Keywords: Refugees; Turkey; Syria; border control; securitization.


Since March 2011, over four millions of people have fled civil war in Syria and sought refuge mainly in neighbouring countries, such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. Since the early stages of the war, Turkey has followed an "open door" policy and become the leading country in accepting refugees from Syria. This policy ensures "respect for the principle of non-refoulemenf and commitment of the government to "providing the best possible living conditions and humanitarian assistance for the refugees" (Kirisçi, 2013). However, when this policy was first applied, these refugees were considered as "guests", not refugees. This is partly because, the geographical limitation to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees maintained by Turkey restricts the refugee status only to those coming from Europe. Another widely stated reason is the shortsighted political understanding of the Syrian crisis. Kiri^çi argued that:

"Turkey's expectation, which was in line with a good part of the international community, was that the A.ssad regime would not last long. It was against such a background that Turkey declared in October 2011 an open door policy towards refugees fleeing Syria" (Kirisfi, 2014: 1).

However, given the ongoing war in Syria, it is evident that refugees from Syria are unlikely to return home in the near future according to the conflict and culture of migration model proposed by Sirkeci.2 This is reflected in the continued increase in number of refugees from Syria. According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of August 2015, the number of registered refugees from Syria is 1,938,999 (UNCHR, 2015). However, the actual figure is likely to be higher, as not all of the refugees are registered. As of June 2015, only 262.797 of these refugees are currently living in the (tent and container) camps established in cities near to the border (AFAD, 2015). The rest are spread throughout the country and some are struggling to "survive" in dire conditions and facing racist assaults, violence and discrimination as reported frequently in the media.

Currently, the refugees are admitted and accommodated through the "temporar}7 protection regime"3 which was first introduced in October 2011. This regime has been applied to all Syrians, Palestinians, and stateless persons living in Syrian.4 * * The new "Law on Foreigners and International Protection" (hereafter the LFIP) adopted on April 4, 2013 by the Turkish Parliament provided a solid legal base and clarity to this temporary7 protection regime. Article 91 (1) of the LFIP defines the "temporary protection" as a protection status granted to foreigners who, having been forced to leave the country and cannot return to the country7 they left, have arrived at or crossed the borders of Turkey in masses seeking emergency and temporary protection. Article 91 (2) further states that implementation of temporary protection shall be governed by a regulation to be issued by the Council of Ministers. …

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