Humanitarian situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in
South-East Turkey and North Iraq
3 June 1998
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography
Rapporteur: Mrs Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, Switzerland, Socialist Group
This report seeks to understand the reasons for the large-scale displacement
of population of mainly Kurdish ethnic origin both within and from northern
Iraq and south-east Turkey and to assess their humanitarian situation and
needs. Concluding that the lack of security and difficult economic and
social conditions which characterise these regions have prompted such
population movements, the report recommends that confidence-building
measures be introduced in the framework of the Council of Europe programmes,
and that the Turkish Government take steps to bring about a peaceful
settlement of the armed conflict in which it is engaged in the south-east of
the country. Moreover, the report calls on the member states of the Council
of Europe to use their influence with the European Union to step up its
economic development aid in the region, and to increase both their
humanitarian aid to North Iraq and their efforts, through the United Nations
Security Council, to promote peace between the conflicting parties in that
region. The report also calls on the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe to draw up a series of measures designed to combat the conditions
which foster clandestine migration in all its forms.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls and reaffirms its Recommendation 1150
(1991) on the situation of the Iraqi Kurdish population and other persecuted
minorities, Recommendation 1151 (1991) on the reception and settlement of
refugees in Turkey, Resolution 1022 (1994) on the humanitarian situation and
needs of the displaced Iraqi Kurdish population, Recommendation 1348 (1997)
on the temporary protection of persons forced to flee their country,
Recommendation 1211 (1993) on clandestine migration: traffickers and
employers of clandestine migrants and Recommendation 1306 (1996) on
migration from the developing countries to the European industrialised
2. The Assembly notes that one of the acute problems that most of the member
countries of the Council of Europe are facing today is the general question
of clandestine migration due to the social, economic and demographic
differences between the developing and the industrialised countries and also
to humanitarian causes in the regions concerned.
3. The Assembly notes with great anxiety the precarious humanitarian
situation of the people of Kurdish and other origins in northern Iraq and in
the south-eastern provinces of Turkey. The lack of security and difficult
economic and social situation in these regions have resulted in large-scale
internal and external population displacement and movements.
4. The Assembly strongly condemns the violence perpetrated by the Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK), which has contributed to population displacement and
movements, and urges this organisation to stop all armed activities. The
Assembly also condemns the evacuation and burning of Kurdish villages by the
Turkish armed forces, and considers that the operation of the village guard
system raises serious human rights concerns.
5. The Assembly is concerned that the number of asylum-seekers and illegal
migrants of Kurdish origin has increased in certain European countries.
6. The Assembly considers that the scale of the humanitarian plight of the
Kurds fully justifies the involvement of the Council of Europe and of other
relevant international organisations, and that all governments concerned
should be urged to take effective steps to improve the situation, and, in
the case of Turkey, to comply fully with the Council of Europes principles.
7. The Assembly underlines once more with great concern that the problem of
illegal trafficking in human beings also stirs up racism, xenophobia and
8. The Assembly stresses once more that although this phenomenon is of great
concern for receiving countries, it is also disturbing for the countries on
the transit route.
9. The Parliamentary Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of
i. take steps to promote dialogue and reconciliation in the
provinces of south-eastern Turkey inhabited mainly by Kurdish
people, through appropriate action in the framework of the
programme of confidence-building measures, and in particular
through an immediate and bilateral cease-fire;
ii. instruct its appropriate committees to intensify their efforts
to remedy the concrete problems connected with migration movements
iii. draw up a series of measures designed to combat the
conditions which foster clandestine migration in all its forms,
with provision for penalties for traffickers and employers who
exploit illegal immigrants, in consultation with the Budapest
iv. invite Turkey:
a. to stop using the armed forces against the civilian Kurdish
b. to expedite and intensify its efforts to promote the economic
and social development of the south-eastern provinces;
c. to sign and ratify the Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter
for Regional and Minority Languages;
d. to adopt policies and take adequate measures to enable
Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin to exercise their cultural
and political rights;
e. to restore the rule of law in the south-east of the country,
and in particular to lift emergency rule in the south-eastern
provinces, to ensure effective protection of villages, to
exercise civilian control over military activity in the
region including the keeping of records and observance of
human rights, and to prosecute members of the armed forces
charged with human rights violations;
f. to abolish the village guard system;
g. to undertake additional effective measures aimed at the
reconstruction and revival of the economy in the
h. to take further steps to reconstruct schools and hospitals in
i. to implement, in cooperation with international humanitarian
organisations, a major programme with a view to encouraging
the return of the Kurdish population to their homes;
j. to ensure particular protection for returning women, children
and elderly people;
k. to present reconstruction projects to be financed by the
Council of Europes Social Development Fund, in the framework
of return programmes;
l. to adopt measures to integrate those displaced persons of
Kurdish origin who wish to settle in other parts of Turkey,
and provide them, as well as returnees, with compensation for
property damaged by the Turkish armed forces where the case
m. to grant access to the region for international humanitarian
organisations, and provide them with support from local
n. to continue to facilitate the transfer of supplies for
humanitarian purposes to Iraq;
o. to lift the geographical limitation to the 1951 Convention
relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and
in particular abstain from deportation of asylum-seekers
without prior consultation with the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and abolish
the 5-day-limit for making asylum applications;
p. to refrain from all military incursions into northern Iraq,
and seek an agreement with the Government of Iraq concerning
the security of refugees in that region;
v. urge the member states:
a. to encourage the strengthening of aid programmes for
development in the countries of origin and also in the
countries of transit with a view to providing increased
economic and technical assistance for migration-related
b. to step up their humanitarian aid to northern Iraq through
the appropriate agencies;
c. to adhere scrupulously to the principle of non-refoulement in
accordance with their international obligations;
d. to offer temporary protection, in consultation with UNHCR, to
those who do not qualify for refugee status under the 1951
Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967
Protocol but who have been forced to flee because their lives
or safety were endangered;
e. to ensure that all asylum-seekers are treated with dignity
and sheltered in healthy conditions;
f. to continue efforts to conclude repatriation and readmission
agreements with the countries of origin and with the
countries of transit, provided that the people concerned are
not returned against their will;
vi. use its influence with the European Union:
a. to ensure that any action taken to strengthen border controls
or to combat clandestine trafficking do not infringe or
undermine international law on the protection of refugees;
b. to resume promised financial cooperation with a view to
fostering economic development in Turkey, particularly in its
south-eastern provinces, and step up its provision of
humanitarian aid to northern Iraq;
vii. set up, together with the European Union, a joint programme
of cooperation with Turkey aimed at providing assistance in
relation to the Kurdish people;
viii. use its influence with the United Nations Security Council
to obtain an effective lifting of sanctions on Iraq and more
intensive efforts to ensure peace between the parties concerned.
II. Draft order
1. The Assembly refers to its Recommendation * (1998) on the humanitarian
situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in South-East Turkey
and North Iraq.
2. The Assembly considers that it should play a more prominent role in
promoting peace and reconciliation in the Kurdish regions of south-eastern
Turkey and elsewhere. For this purpose, it instructs the appropriate
committees to study the question more actively within their own areas of
competence, and to organise an international parliamentary conference on the
Kurdish question in all its aspects with the participation of all parties
3. The Assembly instructs its Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and
Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe to study the issue of
the Kurdish minority in the framework of the monitoring procedure concerning
III. Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Vermot-Mangold
2. Situation in Turkey
a. Situation in the south-eastern region of the country
b. Internally displaced persons of Kurdish origin and
refugees from Turkey in Iraq
c. Prospects for return; position of the Turkish
d. Role of the international organisations
3. Situation in North Iraq
a. Assessment of the humanitarian situation and needs
b. Activities of the international humanitarian
4. Influx of Kurdish migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe
a. Recent increases
c. Response of the European Union
Appendix: Dissenting opinion of the Turkish members of the
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography presented by MM.
Dinçer and Mutman
1. The Parliamentary Assembly has followed the humanitarian situation of
refugees and displaced persons of Kurdish origin with anxiety for many years
now. It has adopted a number of texts relating to the subject, in particular
Recommendation 1150 (1991) on the situation of the Iraqi Kurdish population
and other persecuted minorities and Resolution 1022 (1994) on the
humanitarian situation and needs of the displaced Iraqi Kurdish population.
Moreover, in Order No 460 (1991), the Assembly instructed its Committee on
Migration, Refugees and Demography to follow closely developments in the
Iraqi Kurdish refugees situation.
2. In addition, on 4 May 1992 the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Demography was seized of a motion for a resolution on the situation of the
Kurds, which referred directly to the situation in North Iraq and in
South-East Turkey. In the preparation of the present report, the Rapporteur
visited Geneva on 20-21 November 1996 for meetings with the humanitarian
organisations concerned (UNHCR, ICRC, IFRC, UNICEF and the UN Human Rights
3. The Rapporteurs intention was to visit the region concerned. On her
proposal, on 29 January 1997 the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Demography set up an ad hoc committee for a fact-finding mission to Turkey
and Iraq, but the Bureau did not authorise the visit.
4. In order to gather more information, the Sub-Committee on Refugees
organised a parliamentary hearing on 17 November 1997 with the participation
of representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations
operating in the region. Unfortunately the Turkish delegation to the
Committee did not attend. The fact that the Turkish Government did not reply
to the invitation sent to it demonstrates its lack of consideration for the
5. During the January 1998 part session of the Assembly, Mrs Aguiar, the
then Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, and
others, including the Rapporteur, reacting to the increasing number of
arrivals in Italy and Greece of migrants and asylum-seekers of Kurdish
origin, requested a debate under urgent procedure on the influx of migrants
and asylum-seekers of Kurdish origin in Europe. Since this request was
rejected by the Assembly, the Committee subsequently agreed that the
Rapporteur should also cover this aspect in her report on the humanitarian
situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons.
6. Finally, it should be noted that a monitoring procedure in respect of
Turkey, under Order No 508 (1995) on the honouring of obligations and
commitments by member states of the Council of Europe, was opened in April
1996 on the basis of Assembly Recommendation 1298 (1996) on Turkeys respect
of commitments to constitutional and legislative reforms, and that the
Committee on the Honouring of obligations and commitments by member states
of the Council of Europe is preparing a report which covers certain aspects
of the Kurdish question.
7. The Rapporteur is of the opinion that the dramatic humanitarian situation
of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in south-east Turkey and north
Iraq, as well as the influx of Kurdish asylum seekers in Europe, which is
one of its direct consequences, stem from the political problems in the
region. Thus it proved impossible to discuss, or make recommendations on how
to improve the humanitarian plight of the population concerned in
abstraction from the political causes.
2. Situation in Turkey
a. Situation in the south-eastern region of the country
8. Martial law was established in the south-eastern provinces of Turkey as
early as the 1970s in response to the activities of a variety of Kurdish and
leftist political movements, both armed and peaceful. However, serious armed
conflict in the region began in 1984, when the Kurdistan Workers Party
(PKK), attacked two police stations. The Turkish armed forces responded with
repression and the establishment of the village guard system (Koruculuk).
9. The village guards are a force of approximately 50 000 ethnic Kurdish
villagers armed and paid by the Government to fight the PKK. The village
guard system continues to raise the most serious human rights concerns
expressed on many occasions by human rights organisations including Amnesty
International and Human RightsWatch. In February 1997, Mr Unal Erkan, member
of the Turkish Parliament (True Path Party- DYP) and former governor of the
areas of South-East Turkey under emergency rule, stated that village guards
often operated outside the control of the gendarmerie, and that many
villagers faced pressure to enter the system.
10. In theory becoming a village guard is voluntary, but in practice refusal
is followed by reprisals by the security forces, ranging from detention of
villagers(1) to forced evacuations of whole villages. On the other hand,
joining the village guard system entails the risk of retaliation against the
whole village by the PKK. The overwhelming majority of the Kurdish
population in the region face such a dramatic alternative which allows
nobody to remain neutral and uninvolved.
11. The evacuation of villages refusing to join the village guard system is
carried out by the army with extreme brutality and no civilian supervision.
It is frequently accompanied by the destruction of property and further
violation of human rights such as sexual assault and humiliation, beatings
and extrajudicial executions.
12. The Turkish authorities until recently have denied responsibility for
these operations, claiming that the PKK was to blame for the destruction of
villages and that individuals had left voluntarily, or under pressure from
the PKK. However the complicity of the Turkish authorities was confirmed in
two recent rulings of the European Court of Human Rights: on 16 September
1996 in the case of Akdivar and others vs Turkey, and on 28 November 1997 in
the case of Mentes and others vs Turkey, in which Turkish security forces
were found guilty of burning houses in villages in south-eastern Turkey,
causing the villagers to flee.
13. In another case, that of Isiyok vs Turkey concerning the destruction of
a village, both parties accepted on 31 October 1997 a so-called friendly
settlement proposed by the European Commission of Human Rights, according to
which the Turkish authorities paid compensation to the applicants(2).
14. Undoubtedly, the PKK has some responsibility for the burning of
villages, in particular those run by village guards or refusing to support
the PKK. Attacks are often targeted against those whom the PKK accuses of
´ cooperating with the state ª such as civil servants, teachers and village
guard families. According to the Amnesty International Report 1997, armed
members of the PKK were responsible for more than 40 deliberate and
arbitrary killings in 1996. The victims included civilians, as well as
captured soldiers and village guards.
15. However, the responsibility of both parties, the PKK on the one hand,
and the Turkish armed forces on the other, should be viewed in appropriate
proportions. In the Rapporteurs opinion the Turkish authorities bear more
blame for the uncontrolled escalation of violence in the region, first
because the provocative nature of their suppression of the rights of the
Kurdish minority lies at the origin of the conflict, and secondly because
they have at their disposal the whole machinery of the state, which they use
abusively against the Kurdish population in the region.
16. A step towards the clarification of this important question has been
undertaken by the Turkish Parliament. At the request of one of its members,
Mr Algan Hacaloglu of the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), a former state
minister for human rights, the Turkish Parliament set up a Committee on
Migration in 1997 to investigate the causes of displacement and to provide
aid to the displaced.
17. On 28 July 1997, the Chairman of this Committee, Mr Seyit Hasim Hasimi,
held a press conference in Diyarbakir. He announced that forced evacuation
of villages and hamlets by the Turkish armed forces in the region had
resulted in large numbers of displaced people and potential refugees. He
confirmed that 364 742 inhabitants of 3 185 villages and hamlets had been
forced out since 1990 in the framework of the fight against terrorism. These
figures were publicly confirmed later by Mr Bülent Ecevit, Deputy Prime
Minister, who said that the villages had been emptied "for security
reasons". The US State Department cited 560 000 as "a credible estimate" of
the number of people deprived of their homes as a result of the evacuations.
18. According to Human Rights Watch the majority of villages and hamlets in
the region were forcibly emptied between 1993 and 1995. After that the
large-scale evacuations ceased, but smaller operations by the Turkish armed
forces continued in 1996 and 1997. The most probable reason for the lower
rate of evacuations is that there are now very few ´ frontline ª villages
left outside the village guard system and the process of depopulation is
19. The tragic record of the region would not be complete without giving the
number of people killed in the conflict, which illustrates the state of
dreadful insecurity that prevails. According to Turkish military sources,
some 19 000 people have been killed since the PKK began its campaign in 1984
3 000 members of the security forces, 11 000 ´ terrorists ª and 5 000
civilians. In a speech in October 1995 President Demirel spoke of 20 663
dead and 13 577 injured. Kurdish sources speak of 35 000 dead, including at
least 5 000 civilians.
b. Internally displaced persons of Kurdish origin and refugees from Turkey
20. The dramatic situation in the south-eastern part of Turkey has resulted
in the forced displacement of the Kurdish population within the country and
outside Turkey. Exact figures for internal and external displacement are
impossible to obtain, as no exhaustive statistics are held on the subject.
The extent of these movements is so massive that certain human rights
organisations do not hesitate to speak of a deliberate policy of dispersal
of the Kurdish population carried out by the Turkish authorities.
21. Estimates of the number of internally displaced persons of Kurdish
origin in Turkey range, depending on the source, from 370 000 to 10 million.
The big discrepancy results from the difficulty to differentiate between
natural migration movements which may be observed in many countries and
which have mainly economic causes (eg rural depopulation), and forced
displacement. Whereas the Kurdish human rights organisations have a tendency
to include all people of Kurdish origin living outside south-east Turkey in
the category of forcibly displaced persons, the Turkish authorities limit
this number to dislodged inhabitants of destroyed villages and hamlets. The
exact definition of a displaced person with regard to the Kurdish population
is very difficult to establish. Individual decisions on migration are often
based on a number of factors. The armed conflict, general insecurity in the
region, economic instability: all these factors contribute to the
depopulation of the region, and it is nearly impossible, given the lack of
reliable statistics, to distinguish between forcibly displaced population
and voluntary migrants who have no intention to come back.
22. According to Mr Nezan, President of the Kurdish Institute in Paris, the
number of persons displaced within south-east Turkey over the last 20 years
amounts to 2.5-3 million. The population of Diyarbakir, for example, rose
from 380 000 in 1990 to 1 million in 1996. Concerning displacement
throughout the rest of Turkey, the figure is approximately 8 million, of
whom some 3 million are in Istanbul alone.
23. The majority of the displaced rural population of Kurdish origin now
live in urban centres in dramatic conditions and extreme poverty, creating
specific integration problems for local communities. The main problem is
usually a total lack of financial resources which would enable the displaced
population to lead a normal life in new surroundings. They have most often
been deprived of their property for which they have received no
compensation. They usually have no prospects for employment. Having no means
of subsistence they are compelled to live in shanty towns with no health or
social care. It is common that children are forced to work. Needless to say
these disastrous living conditions have resulted in an increase in crime, in
particular among young people, and growing support for radical movements.
24. According to Médecins sans Frontières, the vast majority of these
displaced persons are considered a population at risk from the public health
point of view. Primary health care is severely deficient with an almost
complete lack of medical services, which may be illustrated by the following
statistics: while the average number of consultations per person per year in
1992 was 2.4 for the whole of Turkey, it was 0 .26 in Diyarbakir. The infant
mortality rate, which was officially 60 per 1000 for the whole country in
1990, was 87 per 1000 in Diyarbakir and 98 per 1000 in Hakkari in the same
year. A number of communicable diseases such as typhoid, para-typhoid,
trachoma, brucellosis and amoebic dysentery are endemic throughout the
region. The vaccination coverage is low and decreasing. The nutritional
status of the displaced population is borderline.
25. Besides the internally displaced, there are also a number of Turkish
refugees of Kurdish origin who fled to North Iraq. Following the closure for
security reasons of the so-called Atrush A refugee camp, close to the
Turkish border, in 1995, and of Atrush B in December 1996 due to the
presence of the PKK, these refugees now find themselves in several groups.
26. One group of approximately 6 800 people who were refused asylum in Iraq,
were until recently in a kind of no-mans land between the area of North
Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Mr Barzani,
staying in Ain-Sufni camp(3) under the protection of UNHCR, which provided
them with basic humanitarian assistance, including food, health care,
sanitation and temporary shelter. On 14 February 1997, due to the lack of
security, they left the camp, leaving behind only 70 people (who were
subsequently assisted by UNHCR and the local authorities to relocate to the
Governorate of Dohuk). They tried once again to enter Iraqi territory, but
were not admitted. At the time of drafting the present report, they were
camped near the Iraqi checkpoint, in the no mans land, on the side of the
road and on the road itself, surrounded by areas infested with land mines.
They are provided with basic assistance by UNHCR, and awaiting the outcome
of the UNHCRs negotiations both with the Iraqi Government and with the
KDPs local Government in Dohuk, or some alternative solution in case the
Iraqi Government sticks to its negative position.
27. It should be noted that the majority of this group are women and
children and constitute a particularly vulnerable category of refugees. They
are more often in danger of human rights violations including threats to
their physical safety and sexual assault, and have specific health problems
and needs. Therefore the greatest importance should be attached to remedying
the present dramatic situation.
28. Another group of some 4 000 Turkish refugees of Kurdish origin are
located in 19 settlements in Dohuk governorate, and one settlement in Erbil
governorate. They have received humanitarian assistance from UNHCR which
also provides assistance to the host communities in order to facilitate
29. Moreover, some 1 000 refugees returned to Turkey in 1997. However, the
prospects for further voluntary repatriation are very limited.
30. The security of the refugees in Northern Iraq is highly unsatisfactory,
mainly because of Turkish military incursions and non-respect of the
so-called ´ security zone ª established after the 1991 Gulf War. In
addition, as a result of the recent Gulf crisis, Turkey is reported to have
set up a 15 km buffer zone in Northern Iraq. According to the newspaper
Sabah, as many as 30 000 Turkish troops have already been sent to Iraqi
31. A considerable number of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin seek asylum
in European countries. This question is examined in Section 4 below.
c. Prospects for return; position of the Turkish authorities
32. According to figures released in March 1997 by the Turkish Ministry of
the Interior, approximately 20 000 internally displaced persons of Kurdish
origin returned to their homes in 108 villages and 90 hamlets in the
south-east region in 1996.
33. As mentioned above only some 1 000 of over 10 000 Turkish refugees of
Kurdish origin at present in Iraq returned in 1997. The others are waiting
for amnesty in Turkey, and for adequate reintegration assistance measures.
34. The new Prime Minister, Mr Mesut Yilmaz, who took office in July 1997,
and many of his ministers have made positive statements about improving the
situation. Shortly after taking up his duties, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent
Ecevit led a delegation to Diyarbakir, the centre of Turkeys
ethnically-Kurdish regions, to announce job creation programmes, housing for
the forcibly displaced and increased education opportunities. The aim of the
Turkish authorities is to establish 400 regional schools before 2000.
Special premiums are paid to teachers willing to come to the region, but out
of 6144 teachers designated to teach in the region in 1997, 3173 have
already resigned. Since 1992, 122 teachers have been killed and 17 wounded.
2076 schools are closed because the villagers or tutors have left. 117 000
students cannot attend school.
35. All these declarations seem to point to a new policy in south-east
Turkey. It should be noted, however, that already in the past,
representatives of newly established governments have made promises and
declarations concerning the Kurdish population, which have not been
subsequently observed. The reason seems to be the lack of civil control over
the army and the security forces which, in practice, constitute the only
authority in the region. Therefore, it is necessary to judge the Government
according to its actions.
36. For the time being however conditions in the region do not allow any
large-scale returns to be envisaged. The main reason is continuing lack of
security. The armed conflict in south-eastern Turkey between the security
forces and the PKK is in its 14th year with both sides committing serious
abuses including torture, extrajudicial killings, and indiscriminate burning
of property. Although at present much of the fighting has moved to remote
mountain areas or to northern Iraq, nevertheless repatriation would still
mean putting lives at risk.
37. Another serious problem results from the disastrous economic and social
situation of the whole region. Systematic destruction of the infrastructure,
economic resources, livestock, crops, houses, tractors etc. have made large
areas of the region uninhabitable. The region has always suffered from a
lower level of economic and social development than other parts of Turkey;
the conflict has much increased this gap. The rate of illiteracy is 35 % in
the Kurdish regions, whereas at the national level it is 19,3%; over 60% of
the Kurdish population in the south-east region live below the poverty line
compared to approximately 30 % in other regions, and the mortality rate is
50% higher than in other parts of the country. Before mass return could be
foreseen, measures to revive the local economy would have to be undertaken.
38. In addition there is a food embargo in the province of Tunceli, and
partly in Diyarbakir and Bingol provinces, that limits the amount of food
villagers can purchase, allegedly to cut off the PKKs access to supplies.
39. Although the state of emergency begun in 9 south-eastern provinces in
1984 was lifted in 3 provinces in October 1997, the state of emergency
decree was renewed for 4 months for all provinces in November.
40. One may consider all the problems mentioned above as symptoms of a more
general political conflict. It must be remembered that a population of 13.2
million (22% of the total population in Turkey) is, despite claims to the
contrary by the Turkish Government, denied the right to maintain its
cultural identity and traditions, to use its language, and to develop its
own links. The position of the Turkish authorities in this respect has not
changed: the Turkish Constitution does not recognize distinctions as to race
or ethnic origin. This attitude seems to justify the suppression of
minorities cultural expression.
41. The Constitution of Turkey prohibits the use of a ´language prohibited
by lawª (Art. 26 and 28). In fact there are at least 13 laws which forbid
the use of the Kurdish language and the expression of Kurdish culture.
Articles 8 of the anti-terrorist law and 311, 312 and 159 of the Penal Code
restricting freedom of opinion are in force. In particular Article 8 which
outlaws advocacy of separatism continues to be used to prosecute and
imprison people for peacefully expressing their opinions. Articles 168, 169
and 312 of the Turkish Penal Code are used to prosecute writers, journalists
and political activists who challenge the governments policies in the
south-east. Human rights defenders in the area have been tried on manifestly
fabricated charges of membership of, or support for, armed opposition
groups(4). Since 1995 the European Court of Human Rights has announced as
many as 12 judgements regarding violations of human rights of people of
Kurdish origin by the Turkish authorities.
42. The detention of 6 Kurdish members of parliament (Mr Sirri Sakik, Mr
Ahmet Türk, Mr Mahmut Alinak, Mrs Leyla Zana, Mr Mehmet Hatip Dicle and Mr
Orhan Dogan) is a well known fact, now being examined by the European Court
of Human Rights(5).
43. All these violations constitute part of the broader question of the rule
of law and human rights. They should therefore be carefully examined by the
d. Role of the international organisations
44. The main problem encountered by the humanitarian organisations is lack
of access to the south-east of Turkey. For example, Médecins sans Frontières
is systematically refused the possibility to give medical assistance in the
region. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has no access to
Turkey, therefore no possibility to monitor compliance with international
humanitarian law or to visit detainees. At the hearing on 17 November 1997,
Mr Kilic from the Red Cross of Kurdistan (not affiliated with the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) accused
the Turkish Government of not admitting to the region lorries with medicines
sent by this strictly humanitarian organisation.
45. Despite these difficulties a number of humanitarian organisations run
projects mainly in the nutritional, health and educational fields. For
instance UNICEF, in co-operation with the authorities and local civil
society, has introduced income-generating projects and training programmes.
46. Other organisations assist displaced persons in other parts of the
country and refugees outside Turkey (in particular in Iraq). An interesting
example of such activities is the project carried out since 1994 by the
Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. It aims at improving interaction and
co-operation between local NGOs and those municipalities in Turkey which
receive large numbers of Kurdish displaced persons, and therefore are faced
with the problems of integration. These efforts have been successful to some
extent, which may be illustrated by the example of an Organisation called
´ Help and Solidarity with the Migrants ª, effective in its co-operation
with local authorities.
3. Situation in North Iraq
a. Assessment of the humanitarian situation and needs
47. The failure of the Kurds to establish a stable government in the
exclusion zone in North Iraq after they took control of the area following
the Gulf War was followed in 1994 by armed conflict between the two main
Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP). External pressure and support for both opponents
resulting from national rivalries in the region largely contributed to the
outbreak of the hostilities. Over 3 000 fighters and civilians were
reportedly killed as successive cease-fires were broken by one party or
another. By the end of 1995, the PUK controlled 70 % of Iraqi Kurdistan,
including the seat of government, Arbil. Conflict continued throughout 1996
and 1997 despite US attempts to bring about a lasting cease-fire.
48. The subsequent incursions of the Turkish armed forces into North Iraq to
seek and destroy armed elements of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and
those of Iraqi Government forces in support of the KDP add to the insecurity
of the region.
49. There is no effective rule of law in the region. Serious violations
including the detention of political opponents, torture, executions
following summary trials, unlawful killings, execution of prisoners etc have
been committed by the main parties since 1991. Moreover the area is infested
with anti-personnel mines.
50. The Kurds in North Iraq suffer a double embargo: that imposed by the
United Nations on Iraq in 1990 and a partial internal embargo imposed by the
Government of Iraq. Security Council Resolution 986(1995) (´oil for foodª)
has been implemented since December 1996, but has been subject to delay.
Consequently, the Kurdish population in the region live in extreme poverty.
It is to be hoped that the benefits resulting from the doubling of the sales
limit in February 1998 will reach them.
51. Even if humanitarian supplies are exempted from the United Nations
embargo, these are still subject to piecemeal approval by the UN Sanctions
Committee, and there is a particular problem about deliveries due to
insecurity on the roads, including shelling of convoys. Moreover, UNHCR
encounters difficulties in shipping supplies (tents etc) from the UNHCR
store in Alexandruna, Turkey, since the Turkish Government believes this
material will be used to assist Kurds of Turkish origin.
52. The population of North Iraq is dependent on foreign humanitarian
assistance. The economy is in a disastrous state as a consequence of the
political and military situation. The weakness of the economy is
characterised by lack of infrastructure and financial resources.
53. The health and nutrition situation in North Iraq remains critical: child
mortality is very high, malnutrition is common, the health of the whole
population is deteriorating. An outbreak of diphtheria has been reported.
Deterioration in the quality of drinking water results in an increase in
diseases like typhoid and hepatitis. The problem is aggravated by the
dilapidated state of hospital infrastructure, the lack of equipment,
medicines and staff.
54. Renewed armed conflict, sustained insecurity and recurrent displacement
of the population have created additional barriers to childrens access to
school, which is a chronic problem in the whole of the country. The number
of street children is on the rise, and many other children are out of
school. The educational level in the north is thus steadily deteriorating.
55. The number of internally displaced people of Kurdish origin in November
1997 stood at over 80 000. They were staying in collective townships, in
prefabricated housing or in abandoned public buildings. The main problem of
this rural population is the lack of land: the majority of their village
lands are still mined or in front line or border areas. Therefore they are
totally dependent on continuing relief.
56. On 4 December 1997 about 20 000 Turkish soldiers entered Iraqi
Kurdistan. This was Turkeys 57th incursion into North Iraq, and obviously
contributed to a new wave of displacement of the Kurdish population. Figures
are not available.
57. The Turkish military operations undertaken in 1997 considerably slowed
the pace of returns of people displaced during earlier fighting. Moreover
every new incursion or operation brought about new uncontrolled movements of
population, creating considerable dislocation to rehabilitation programmes
as relief agencies sought to assist those directly affected.
58. Apart from the internally displaced population of Kurdish origin there
are 22 600 Iranian refugees of Kurdish origin in North Iraq. Of these, 3 700
are assisted by UNHCR, in collaboration with other agencies and local NGOs.
The only durable solution for these refugees which has been envisaged so far
is resettlement in third countries. Over 1 500 were resettled to Sweden,
Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland in 1997.
UNHCR plans 2 000 resettlements for 1998.
59. The situation of the Turkish refugees of Kurdish origin in North Iraq
was described in Section 2 above.
60. Recent developments in the Gulf area, and in particular Turkish
preparations to create a so called ´ buffer zone ª in North Iraq compelled
many people from the concerned areas to seek protection either in Turkey or
in Iraq. In their attempts to enter the territory of one of these countries
they encounter serious problems.
61. It should be mentioned that the Turkish authorities carry out forcible
returns of asylum-seekers to their country of origin, including Iraq and
Iran. These refoulements, criticised by UNHCR and Amnesty International,
result from inflexibility of the asylum procedure in Turkey which allows
deportation of asylum seekers who do not submit their applications to the
authorities within five days of their arrival in the country. In addition
persons entering Turkish territory illegally must submit their application
for asylum at the border city. Due to the lack of information and also
ignorance of these rules on the part of local authorities, asylum-seekers
are not aware of these rules, or are reluctant to contact local authorities.
Turkey applies the geographical limitation to the 1951 Geneva Convention and
1967 Protocol, which means that all non-European asylum applicants are
referred to UNHCR. Nevertheless, Turkey is bound by the principle of
non-refoulement under international law.
b. Activities of the international humanitarian organisations
62. The United Nations remains committed to the protection of the Kurdish
region of North Iraq in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 688,
and implements the programme ´ Provide Comfort ª through the intermediary of
its agencies, NGOs and national institutions. The Office of the UN
Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq is responsible for assisting internally
displaced persons, together with ICRC, WFP, United Nations Childrens Fund
(UNICEF) and some NGOs.
63. UNICEF is the lead humanitarian agency for North Iraq, under overall
United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs coordination from Baghdad.
UNICEF has developed a map of all human settlements in North Iraq, to show
access to basic services, health, education, water, electricity etc. This
allows resources to be distributed fairly and according to need, and is
especially useful in implementing Security Council Resolution 986 (1995)
(´oil for foodª).
64. UNHCR is mainly concerned with refugees from Turkey and Iran, although
it also helps internally displaced persons in the framework of inter-agency
co-operation. The scale of efforts undertaken by UNHCR may be illustrated by
the following figures: in late 1996 about 119 000 were assisted in their
return to North Iraq from Iran, while in 1997 the number amounted to 8 000.
These operations were carried out in co-operation with the Government of
Iraq and the local authorities in the North.
65. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
(IFRC) supports the relief work throughout Iraq of the Iraqi Red Crescent
Society, which has a branch in Suleimanyah. Although North Iraq has been a
battlefield for a number of armed groups, those controlling the area have
been in general supportive of the efforts of the Iraqi Red Crescent to
establish and operate branches. The most recent relief work started in the
aftermath of the Gulf war in 1991. The Iraqi Red Crescent, supported by the
Federation, has been carrying out a large scale operation targeting three
areas: distribution of food to families, nutritional feeding programme for
children, and distribution of medicines and medical supplies to hospitals.
Northern Iraq receives 27 % of total assistance provided by IFRC for Iraq.
66. The Kurdistan Red Crescent Society, created by the PUK in 1993, is now
mainly active among the Iraqi Kurdish diaspora outside North Iraq. It has
projects in the social, health and educational fields.
67. ICRC has been present in North Iraq, including Arbil, Dohuk and
Suleimanyah since 1991. Apart from assisting the internally displaced and
visiting prisoners, it is in the process of rehabilitating the water
distribution and treatment system in Iraq. ICRC has also just opened an
orthopaedic centre in Arbil (there is another in Mosul run by the Iraqi Red
Crescent) to help the large number of amputees, many of them victims of
68. Insufficient and unreliable data make it difficult to assess the joint
efforts of national institutions, NGOs and UN agencies. However, given the
overall highly precarious situation in the region, the relief and
rehabilitation programmes carried out by UN agencies and by local and
foreign NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children Fund from the United Kingdom
have been quite successful.
4. Influx of Kurdish migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe
a. Recent increases
69. For many years Turkish or Iraqi migrants of Kurdish origin have been
arriving in Europe. Their number is estimated at 3 million, but precise
statistical evidence is hard to come by for a number of reasons, including
the fact that migration statistics are broken down by national rather than
ethnic origin. A significant number of Kurdish migrants are not taken into
account in any statistics because of their illegal status.
70. Over recent months several member states have reported a significant
increase in the number of ethnic Kurds, mostly of Iraqi nationality,
arriving as illegal migrants and asylum-seekers, and this despite the
overall downward trend since the peak year 1992. Most of them transit
through Turkey, and pay large sums of money to traffickers connected with
organised crime rings.
71. Since December 1997 there has been a surge in the number of illegal
landings by such migrants on the coasts of Italy, as well as Greece. Some of
these have sought asylum in the countries of arrival, others have expressed
the wish to continue their journey to other European countries with already
substantial Kurdish communities.
72. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, the total number of
ethnic Kurds having landed on Italys shores illegally from 1 July 1997 to 1
January 1998 was 2,436. The number of ethnic Kurds whose asylum applications
had been registered between 1 January 1992 and 31 December 1997 (not
including the 26-27 December landing) was 763. Of these, 528 (69%) were of
Iraqi nationality, 205 (27%) were of Turkish nationality, 17 were Iranians,
11 Syrians, 1 Palestinian and 1 Sudanese. Of these asylum applications, 3
had been presented in 1992, 33 in 1993, 43 in 1994, 172 in 1995, 131 in 1996
and 381 in 1997.
73. According to available figures, the total number of Turkish nationals
who applied for asylum in Greece in 1997 was 172 (1996: 257), while the
number of Iraqi nationals was 3,808 (1996: 993). For the last quarter of
1997 the total number of Turkish asylum seekers was 23 and Iraqi
74. Increased numbers of asylum-seekers were reported in the second half of
1997 and the beginning of 1998 notably in the following countries: Denmark,
France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United
75. Germany is a pole of attraction for Kurdish migrants arriving in Europe
because of the Kurdish community of between 450,000 and 600,000, 80% of whom
are Turkish Kurds. There are around 100,000 Kurds in France and between
120,000 and 130,000 in the Benelux countries. Greece, Italy and France allow
the Kurds to continue their journey north as long as they do not stop.
76. The precise causes of the increase in influx of migrants and
asylum-seekers of Kurdish origin movements are hard to pinpoint. The
dramatic humanitarian situation described earlier in the report obviously
constitutes an important incentive for migration. Further reasons are the
lack of economic prospects and discriminatory policies in both Iraq and
Turkey towards the Kurdish minority.
77. On 6 January 1998 the President of the Turkish Human Rights Association,
Mr Akin Birdal, issued a statement to the effect that policies pursued over
decades in Turkey had made this massive migration inevitable. The internal
migration which had been experienced over the past 5-6 years had now turned
abroad. Those forced to migrate faced serious unresolved problems, with
regard to accommodation, nutrition, work, health and education. The recent
migrations showed that the Kurdish question had now become an international
issue, rather than a problem internal to Turkey. It was a human rights
problem, thus a problem for the international community.
78. Mr Kendal Nezan, Director of the Kurdish Institute in Paris, who
contributed to the hearing on the humanitarian situation of the Kurdish
refugees and displaced persons in South East Turkey and North Iraq organised
by the Assembly's Sub-Committee on Refugees on 17 November 1997, said in an
interview published in Le Monde (8 January 1998) that, given that Turkey was
virtually a police state, it was inconceivable that so many Iraqi and
Turkish refugees could leave Turkey without the state apparatus being
accomplice to the fact, in connivance with the Turkish mafia. Not only was
there money to be made through trafficking, but it fitted in perfectly with
the policy of depopulating Kurdistan. This policy amounted to cultural
genocide. Some 7 million out of a total Kurdish population officially
estimated at 12 million Kurds in Turkey, but more likely 15 to 20 million,
had been displaced. 4000 members of the intelligentsia had been assassinated
and thousands more imprisoned or forced to leave.
79. The reason for the recent surge in departures from South East Turkey,
according to Mr Nezan, was that the hopes for greater autonomy that its
Kurdish inhabitants had pinned on the Refah (Welfare) Party, which was based
on the fraternal religion of Islam, had been dashed by the resignation of
the Prime Minister, Mr Erbakan, and the substantial loss of influence of the
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
80. As for the Iraqi Kurds, who had left in greater numbers, they also saw
no future, fearing the return of the Iraqi administration in the North, and
disillusioned by the fighting between the main rival Kurdish factions and by
repeated Turkish military incursions. For the most part these were young
professionals. Some 6,000 had left in 1996 following the incursion into the
"exclusion zone" by Iraqi forces in support of the Kurdistan Democratic
Party (KDP) in their fight against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). A
few hundred of these had worked for the United States Central Intelligence
Agency, but most had simply worked for non-governmental organisations and
feared being considered CIA agents.
81. The Rapporteur has received a statement on "illegal trafficking of human
beings" from the Turkish Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe
deploring this "morally repugnant crime" often linked to "extremist and
terrorist groups", specifically to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] which,
according to the statement, finances its operations through extortion, arms
and drugs smuggling and trafficking in migrants. Being a Turkish national of
Kurdish origin, the statement continued, was not sufficient to be considered
subject to discrimination or persecution as shown by several decisions of
the German Administrative Courts and the decision of the European Commission
on Human Rights in the case of A.G. against Sweden (application No.
27776/95). In any case, it was difficult to verify the identity and country
of origin of many of the migrants concerned. The root cause of the recent
inflow was the economic situation, especially the high unemployment, in
northern Iraq and southern Turkey. This was mainly attributable to the
economic embargo imposed on Iraq. That their main motive was economic could
be judged from the fact that most of the migrants did not ask for political
asylum. Turkey was ready to co-operate against all forms of trafficking in
human beings, and had concluded security co-operation agreements with 30
countries including Italy. The problem could only be solved through dialogue
and co-operation between the interested countries.
82. The Turkish Government has criticised the Italian Government for its
readiness to consider asylum applications from Kurds favourably, asserting
that it was thereby encouraging illegal migration for economic ends. The
Italian Government responded by requesting a Turkish commitment to put an
end to illegal departures and to deal with the root causes of the problem.
83. Both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) have reacted
to the increased flow of Kurdish migrants expressing their concern, and
calling on the states concerned to investigate asylum applications case by
c. Response of the European Union
84. On 12-13 December 1997, the Luxembourg European Council asked the
Justice/Home Affairs Council to work out and rapidly implement an action
plan in response to the massive influx of Iraqi migrants.
85. On 7 January 1998 the European Commission reviewed the situation and
called on member states to step up the harmonisation of asylum procedures
and to respond favourably to its proposal for a Joint Action on Temporary
Protection. It noted Italy's position on asylum and current immigration law
reform. It considered how best to use its technical and financial resources
in such emergency situations with a view to strengthening external border
controls and with regard to the delivery of humanitarian aid and measures to
address the root causes of the crisis.
86. On 8 January 1998 police chiefs and senior officials from Austria,
Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey met in
Rome and reached agreement on ways to combat illegal immigration "at
preventive and repressive level". Including intensified surveillance and
control of external borders and land and sea routes, thorough investigations
of suspected criminal organisations involved in trafficking of migrants, and
their assets, greater co-operation regarding policing of readmission
agreements, more intensive collection, storage and exchange of fingerprints
of illegal immigrants, increased liaison and sharing of information etc.
87. On 15 January 1998 the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on
Kurdish refugees and on the position of the European Union. While expressing
support for the humanitarian approach adopted by the Italian Government
towards the asylum-seekers, the Parliament called among other things for a
common Union policy on immigration and refugees, notably the rapid adoption
of the Convention on external border controls; a Commission proposal for
burden sharing; intensification of the fight against trafficking in
migrants; and an international initiative to find a political solution to
the Kurdish problem.
88. The Action Plan requested by the Luxembourg European Council was adopted
by the General Affairs Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs) on 26 January
1998. It contains the following main elements: improved analysis of the
causes and origins of the influx, development of contacts with the
Government of Turkey and with UNHCR, ensuring that humanitarian aid makes an
effective contribution, effective application of asylum procedures,
preventing abuse of asylum procedures, tackling the involvement of organised
crime, combating illegal immigration, ensuring coherent and co-ordinated
implementation, monitoring and review.
89. The 46-point Action Plan has raised some criticism from the human rights
organisations pointing out that it makes no mention of obstacles encountered
by asylum-seekers trying to use legitimate means to flee from persecution,
such as strict visa requirements and heavy fines imposed on airlines which
transport passengers without the required entry documents. Moreover the
Action Plan does not mention the fact that Iraqi Kurds may not apply for
refugee status in Turkey as a result of the geographical limitation to its
application of the 1951 Geneva Convention and 1967 Protocol. Finally, the
Action Plan does not propose alternative forms of protection for Turkish
Kurds even though the Council acknowledges the causes of their flight.
90. The situation was reviewed by the Justice/Home Affairs Council on 19
March 1998, and by the General Affairs Council on 30 March. The latter
agreed that overall implementation of the Action Plan was proceeding
satisfactorily, and welcomed the co-operation being developed by the
European Union with Turkey and with the UNHCR.
91. Concerning the situation in Turkey, recognition of the rights of the
Kurdish minority is a precondition for a return to peace in the south-east
of the country. The Kurdish population should have the right to use and
sustain their natural language and cultural traditions which is entirely in
accordance with the principles of the Council of Europes Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European
Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Therefore the Turkish
Government should adopt policies and take adequate measures to enable
Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin to exercise their cultural and political
rights as a minority.
92. Effective restoration of the rule of law in the south-east of the
country is a condition without which no mass return of displaced people and
refugees can be envisaged. To this end, emergency rule in the south-eastern
provinces should be lifted. The authorities should ensure effective
protection of villages. At the same time control over military activity
should be exercised by the Government. This includes the keeping of records
and observance of human rights (medical examinations, respect for rules
etc), as well as prosecution of members of the armed forces for human rights
violations. The village guard system should be abolished, as it is highly
abusive. At present there is no civil control over it.
93. Effective measures aiming at the reconstruction and revival of the
economy in the region are indispensable for mass returns. The Governments
declarations in this respect are most welcome, but they must be followed by
concrete action. Possible loans from the Social Development Fund, if
granted, could be used to finance the reconstruction of village housing as
part of a major programme of reconstruction and investment with a view to
the internationally monitored return of the Kurdish population to their
homes in the South-East.
94. Measures should also be foreseen to integrate those displaced persons
who wish to settle in other parts of Turkey. Villagers whose property has
been damaged by the Turkish armed forces should be provided with
95. Humanitarian organisations should be granted access to the region, and
provided with support from local authorities. Also the transfer of supplies
for humanitarian purposes to Iraq should not be hindered.
96. The Turkish Government should lift the geographical limitation to the
1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol. In particular no deportation
of asylum-seekers should be carried out without prior consultation with
UNHCR in order to find out whether the persons in question have been found
to be persons of concern to UNHCR. Abolishing the 5-day-limit for making
asylum applications which may result in violations of the principle of
non-refoulement is essential.
97. An agreement between Turkey and Iraq concerning the security of refugees
in North Iraq is a matter of urgency. The Turkish military incursions into
the territory of Iraq should be stopped.
98. The Government of Iraq should stop all military incursions to the
northern part of the country. It should also be urged to allow entry to the
Kurdish refugees seeking asylum on its territory.
99. Humanitarian assistance for the population of Kurdish origin in Iraq
should be stepped up, and the Government of Iraq should lift the embargo on
the North, and co-operate fully in the implementation of Security Council
Resolution 986 (1995) ("oil for food") ensuring that humanitarian relief
also reaches the North.
100. The situation in South-East Turkey and North Iraq is a direct cause of
growing numbers of migrants of Kurdish origin arriving in Europe. Although
many of them undoubtedly have economic motives for leaving their countries,
many are in genuine need of international protection. The Assembly must urge
all member states to ensure that they adhere scrupulously to the principle
of non-refoulement, as required by the 1951 Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In deciding to examine
applications for asylum on a case-by-case basis, the Italian Government is
to be congratulated on fulfilling its international commitments and acting
in line with Resolution (67) 14 of the Committee of Ministers which asks the
member states to "act in a particularly liberal and humanitarian spirit in
relation to persons who seek asylum on their territory".
101. In this spirit, those member states concerned are urged to offer
protection to all those asylum-seekers deemed not to meet the 1951
Convention criteria for refugee status but who have been forced to flee
because their lives and safety were seriously threatened.
102. The Assembly should also urge all member states to ensure that
salubrious conditions are maintained in their reception facilities for
refugees and asylum-seekers and that these are treated with dignity at all
103. As for the question of clandestine migration and trafficking, the
Parliamentary Assembly in its Recommendation 1211 (1993) on clandestine
migration: traffickers and employers of clandestine migrants called on the
Committee of Ministers to draw up a Convention designed to address the
problem of clandestine migration. However, the Committee of Ministers
replied that such matters were best dealt with by others. No other body has
since undertaken this work in the wider Europe, and it is time for it to
104. While the European Parliament's Resolution on the Kurdish refugees and
on the policy of the European adopted on 15 January 1998 is to be welcomed,
all steps to harmonise migration and refugee policies within the Union
should be carefully coordinated with third European countries on a
multilateral basis in the framework of the Council of Europe. The European
Unions Action Plan adopted on 26 January 1998 is also generally welcome.
However, it must not result in any attempt to prevent the departure from
their countries of those who may wish to apply for asylum abroad on the
grounds of well-founded fear of persecution.
105. Moreover, the strengthening of border controls in Europe must go hand
in hand with the implementation of a preventive policy consisting in
increasing development assistance designed to alleviate the poverty which
generates migration, and in stepping up the promotion of human rights,
democracy and the rule of law.
106. In this connection, the Assembly should play a more prominent role in
promoting peace and reconciliation in the Kurdish regions of south-eastern
Turkey and elsewhere. For this purpose, the Assemblys Committees should
more actively study the question within their own areas of competence. In
particular, the Monitoring Committee should continue to examine the Kurdish
question in the framework of its monitoring procedure in respect of Turkey.
107. Finally, the Assembly should organise an international conference on
the Kurdish question in all its aspects, from political to cultural.
Dissenting opinion of the Turkish members of the Committee on Migration,
Refugees and Demography
Presented by Mr Dinçer and Mr Mutman
The Turkish members of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography
disagree with the content of the report, entitled "The humanitarian
situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in South-East Turkey
and North Iraq" for the following reasons:
* The report deals with separate subjects at one time.
* The report attaches wrong priorities to subjects which do not have
relevance within the mandate specified for the study.
* The report contains false elements and insufficient information.
For all these reasons the conclusions reached in the report are wrong and
II. The content of the report in general
The report is a reflection of what the rapporteur seems to have in mind with
regard to Turkey. It is drafted in such a manner that it is contrary to the
principle of impartiality, which should govern our work in the committee,
and the requirements of objectivity and sincerity in dealing with issues
entrusted to us.
The content of the report does not conform with the mandate given to prepare
The mandate is based on Assembly Order No. 460 (1991), which required the
monitoring of developments with regard to "the situation of the Iraqi
Kurdish population and other persecuted minorities", which was felt
necessary following the first Gulf crisis in 1991, which also led the
Assembly to adopt two recommendations with regard to the humanitarian
consequences of the Gulf crisis. These were Recommendation 1150 on the
situation of the Iraqi Kurdish population and other persecuted minorities
and Recommendation 1151 on the reception and settlement of refugees in
In the follow-up to Order No. 460 (1991) the Assembly debated the issue
again in January 1994 and adopted Resolution 1022 (1994) on the humanitarian
situation and needs of the displaced Iraqi Kurdish population, in which
along with the Kurds in northern Iraq, the Turcomans, the Assyrians and even
the Marsh Arabs in the south were given due consideration.
All these Assembly texts refer only to the situation in northern Iraq, with
a view to finding remedies to the humanitarian situation of the Kurds in
particular, but also the Turcomans, the Assyrians and even the Marsh Arabs
in the south.
The only text which tries to incorporate Turkey into the picture is a 1992
motion for a resolution tabled by Mr Eisma (and others) entitled "The
situation of the Kurds". The Bureau referred this motion to the Committee on
Migration, Refugees and Demography. The committee appointed Mr Eisma as
rapporteur but no follow-up was given until
Mrs Vermot-Mangold volunteered to take over from Mr Eisma in August 1995.
On the other hand, during the January 1998 part-session, the Assembly voted
against a request for the examination under "urgent procedure" of an item
entitled "Influx of migrants and asylum seekers of Kurdish origin in
Europe". This request stemmed from the arrival of two ships of migrants in
Italy through illegal means in December 1997.
The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, during its meeting of
29 January 1998, decided to combine this item with the results of the
"hearing" held in Paris on 17 November 1997 on "the humanitarian situation
of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in South-East Turkey and North
Notwithstanding the importance of the problem of clandestine migration for
Europe, which definitely requires the effective co-operation of all parties
involved, the aforementioned events, which led the Bureau to request the
Assembly to take up the issue under urgent procedure, were seized as an
opportunity to justify the long-lasting efforts to bring the so-called
"Kurdish question" onto the agenda.
The present report is nothing but the product of this attempt.
Apart from the introductory and the concluding parts, the report is composed
of three main sections under the following headings:
* "Situation in Turkey" (39 paragraphs, plus 13 paragraphs which deal
with Turkey in the following sections);
* "Situation in North Iraq" (15 paragraphs, of which 7 paragraphs are
exclusively on Turkey);
* "Influx of Kurdish migrants and asylum seekers in Europe" (22
paragraphs, of which 6 paragraphs are exclusively on Turkey).
The above breakdown alone is sufficient to indicate that this report deals
almost exclusively with Turkey.
Because of its content and the context in which it was prepared, this text
cannot be accepted by the Turkish parliamentarians.
III. Comments on the report section by section
1. Introductory section
It is interesting to note that in paragraph 1, while there are references to
all relevant Assembly texts, there is no mention of Assembly Recommendation
1151 on "the reception and settlement of refugees in Turkey". It should be
mentioned because this recommendation recognises the efforts made by Turkey
to remedy the humanitarian situation of the Kurds fleeing from northern Iraq
in consequence of the Gulf crisis. The number of north Iraqis who fled to
Turkey for shelter, for food and for all sorts of humanitarian protection
during the first Gulf crisis was over 500 000. Turkey, with all its scarce
resources and despite its geographic clause to the 1951 Geneva Convention
spared no effort to remedy the humanitarian needs of these people.
It is also worth noting that all these Assembly texts date back to 1991 and
were relevant to the requirements of those years. The Eisma motion as well,
on which the present report mainly based itself, also dates back to 1992 and
even then was not followed up although its author continued to be a member
of our Assembly until 1995.
In paragraph 3 it is mentioned that the rapporteur's intention to visit "the
region concerned" was not authorised by the Bureau. As a matter of fact this
request was rejected by the Bureau (see meetings in January 1997 and in
March 1997). This is an indication that the appropriate organs of the
Assembly did not agree with the rapporteur on the appropriateness of such a
visit. This visit was neither found agreeable by the Turkish
parliamentarians, as long as it was meant to be a "mission". Nevertheless,
there was an offer from the rapporteur's Turkish colleagues to organise a
private visit to Turkey, but this was not accepted.
There is a reference in paragraph 4 to the "hearing" organised in Paris in
November 1997. The reason neither the Turkish members of the committee nor a
representative of the government participated in the hearing was certainly
not due to lack of consideration for the committee as it is asserted in the
report. It was due to the fact that the hearing was organised to serve the
aims that we criticise this report for.
The majority of the non-governmental organisations invited to take part in
the hearing were either those who directly advocate the so-called "Kurdish
issue" and/or indirectly affiliated with the terrorist organisation PKK. It
was only natural for the Turkish parliamentarians not to take part in such a
forum. The President of the Assembly, Mrs Fisher, was informed of the
concern of the Turkish parliamentarians before the hearing. In the Council
of Europe, as the widest European organisation, we should know perfectly
well what such motivations may mean to the security of our continent and to
the territorial integrity of member states.
In that "hearing", as reflected in the records (document AS/PR/Ref (1997) PV
5 revised), with all due respect to the presence of some of the members of
this committee, the persons and institutions who are well known for their
continuing stance to openly or tacitly defend the cause of PKK terrorism,
had found a free playground for themselves. Now, the present report is
nothing but a duplication of the contents of the "hearing" records.
Perhaps the most critical point which is clearly seen in paragraph 7 and
reflected throughout the report is that there is a constant reference to a
"region", which is understood to be somewhere encompassing a part of Turkish
territory and Iraq. Added to it is that the report makes a correlation
between this "region" and a "political problem" or a "political cause". This
is where the Turkish parliamentarians are most sensitive since such wordings
may imply the questioning of the territorial integrity of a member state.
(The connection of this issue with the PKK is explained in the following
2. The section on the "situation in Turkey"
First and foremost it is not in conformity with the above-described mandate
to allocate a whole chapter under this title.
As the report itself admits in paragraphs 6 and 43, there is a monitoring
procedure going on in Turkey. The rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee
have visited Turkey three times now. Contrary to the response given (by the
Bureau) to a similar request of the rapporteur of this present report, the
rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee did not face any difficulty to go to
all areas they wanted to and to meet anybody they wished to. The coverage of
the Monitoring Committee is so wide that it makes this present report
Particularly in this section, and throughout the report as well, mention is
made of a "Kurdish issue". Apart from Turkey's geographical proximity to the
no-man's-land in northern Iraq, and the PKK's terrorist activities in this
area, to talk about a "Kurdish issue" with regard to Turkey is either
refusing to acknowledge the realities, or an attempt to support the cause of
PKK terrorism, or both.
At the very outset of this section, in paragraph 8, there is a description
of being "armed and peaceful". This description does not even deserve a
comment, except that it perfectly serves as an example to indicate the
general quality of the whole study.
The report underestimates the threat of PKK terrorism and instead attempts
to place this terrorist organisation on an equal footing with the Turkish
Throughout the report there are repeated references to the PKK. However, not
even with a single word does it talk about the fact that the PKK is a
terrorist organisation. As a matter of fact, the rapporteur, whilst
presenting her report during the meeting of our committee in Prague on 13
March 1998, clarified her position that she sees the PKK not as a terrorist
organisation but as one "fighting for the Kurdish people's rights"
(AS/PR (1998) PV 2). This is totally unacceptable. The report tries to
introduce a political question which endangers the territorial integrity and
political unity of Turkey.
What Turkey has been encountering and struggling with for years, is the
question of separatist terrorism.
PKK terrorism began in 1984 not with an attack on two police stations as it
is stated in the report, but with the aim of creating an independent state
encompassing Turkey's south-eastern provinces. As a matter of fact the PKK
was established in 1978. Its systematic campaign of terror has, since then,
targeted not only the Turkish security forces, but also many innocent
The PKK is also described as a terrorist organisation by the United States
and many European states such as France and Great Britain, and its
activities are banned in Germany. Our Assembly debated and adopted a report
in September 1997 (Doc. 7876), in which the PKK is clearly referred to as a
terrorist organisation, and Turkey as among the countries which suffers from
The PKK's strategy is based on the use of terrorism and violence for a dual
purpose: to intimidate and to terrorise the local population and thereby
gain some degree of support, and to deter the Turkish Government from
bringing more economic and social services to the region.
As a result of the terrorist attacks of the PKK since 1984, some 25 000
people have lost their lives. More than 5 000 of them are members of the
local population, including women, children and in many instances babies.
The PKK kills civilians because it wants to force the local population to
accept its demands.
Not only does the PKK kill innocent people, but it also attacks all kinds of
civilian targets in order to make the region unliveable for those who remain
alive. The PKK also destroys schools, kills teachers, set forests on fire,
blows up railways and bridges, plants mines on roads, burns down
construction machinery and demolishes health centres.
To finance its terrorist and propaganda activities the PKK is heavily
engaged in various types of illegal undertakings, including extortion of
money, arms smuggling and trafficking of narcotic drugs and human beings.
The illicit activities of the PKK are mostly concentrated in some western
It is true that the south-eastern provinces of Turkey are relatively
backward regions. However, Turkey is determined to resolve this problem of
underdevelopment by improving the economic conditions of these provinces
which are being violently exploited by the PKK. That is why the Turkish
authorities have been allocating considerable sums for the development of
these regions and investing in huge projects such as the South-eastern
Anatolian Project (GAP). That is also why the PKK has been targeting
civilians and economic and social installations. Its aim is both to
terrorise the local population and to keep the region economically backward.
By doing this the PKK aims to recruit more militants into its own ranks.
Many local people, as a result of the PKK's indiscriminate terrorist
attacks, have moved to other regions of the country which offer better
prospects. It is not possible to give the numbers of such people as there is
unlimited freedom of movement within Turkey and no statistics are held on
Consequently it would be extremely unjust to talk about a deliberate policy
of dispersal of the local population by the Turkish authorities, as alleged
in the report. To claim that there are up to 10 million internally dispersed
Kurds in Turkey is simply absurd. Perhaps the most striking example to show
the lack of seriousness of the report is the statement in paragraph 22 that
"some three million" of our citizens of Kurdish origin, who live in
Istanbul, are forcibly displaced population.
It is true that there are some cases where some villages and hamlets have
been evacuated by the Turkish security forces, because they served as
shelters for the PKK terrorists. But such individual cases should not be
manipulated to create a false picture of the situation.
Contrary to how it is described in the report, the village guard system was
established by the Turkish authorities, in co-operation with the local
population, as one of the measures to counter terrorism. This system is
exclusively based on voluntary participation.
It is true that we have witnessed some cross border operations by the
Turkish security forces in northern Iraq. But these operations did not aim
to endanger the territorial integrity of Iraq. They were exclusively carried
out in self-defence against the PKK terrorists, who are known to be based
there, and carrying out hit-and-run attacks and ambushes from there. Rumours
about a security or buffer zone within Iraqi territory are completely
unfounded. The Turkish forces have always returned to their posts in Turkey
upon the completion of their operations carried out with the limited
specific aim of destroying the PKK camps and terrorists.
The report also distorts the facts about the constitutional and legal system
Constitutional citizenship is one of the founding principles of the Turkish
nation-state and it clearly determines all the social, political and legal
aspects of the state and society. The Turkish Constitution stipulates that
the state and the nation are indivisible, and that all citizens,
irrespective of their ethnic, racial or religious origin, are equal before
The citizens living in southern-eastern provinces of Turkey are an integral
part of our nation. They are the individuals of a nation which has shared
and is determined to preserve the same values with respect to language,
religion, culture, national identity, common history and the will for a
It is of cardinal importance to distinguish between militant separatism
which resorts systematically to terrorism and all kinds of organised crime
and the phenomenon of Kurdish ethnicity. It is evident that not all the
people of Kurdish ethnic origin are militant and seeking separation. On the
contrary an overwhelming majority, widely scattered throughout Turkey, are
law-abiding citizens. Most of them live in western Turkey, the economic
attraction of which draws even greater numbers. This overwhelming majority
is totally integrated into society and economic, social and cultural life.
In Turkey there are countless citizens of all ethnic origins who have risen
to the highest political positions and ranks such as cabinet ministers and
members of parliament.
It is also surprising to see in the report an allegation concerning the
prohibition of Kurdish language in Turkey. Presently, there are no
restrictions on languages other than Turkish to be used in Turkey. It is
true that following the military intervention in 1980, Law No. 2932 was
enacted to prohibit the use of languages other than Turkish as the mother
tongue and of activities to publicise them. That law, adopted in that
exceptional period in Turkey, had even then no effect in practice. This law
was repealed in 1991.
The social fabric of Turkey is a typical example of the realisation of the
internationally accepted principle which stipulates that "not all ethnic,
cultural, linguistic or religious differences necessarily lead to the
creation of national minorities". Our citizens of Kurdish ethnic origin are
not discriminated against, and they feel themselves to be part of society.
It is very important to note that in the context of the Lausanne Peace
Treaty of 1923, which created the modern Turkish Republic, the minorities in
Turkey are defined only in religious terms. However, thanks to the
non-discriminatory stipulations of the Turkish Constitution, everyone in the
country enjoys equal rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
There can be no special treatment in favour of or against any citizen and no
one can claim that there is discrimination based on ethnic origins.
In fact, the people of south-eastern Anatolia, like all the other people in
other regions of Turkey, actively participate in the political life of the
country. They can make their voices heard in local administration as well as
the national parliament and central government through their
The report also gives false information about the UNHCR camps in northern
The Atroush Camp was established by the UNHCR. However, it gradually fell
into the hands of the PKK, lost its civil character and became a base of the
terrorist organisation. The UNHCR accepted that Atroush had lost its
character of being a refugee camp and decided to close it down on 21 January
The Turkish Government has made several announcements to the people in the
Atroush Camp and to those living dispersed in the region who wish to
The government has recently made the same call for voluntary returns from
the Ain-Sufni Camp as well. For this purpose, the Turkish Government has
launched an information campaign in co-operation with the UNHCR.
The UNHCR, upon request, can easily provide all the essential information
about this campaign. According to recent UNHCR statistics, since July 1996,
1 217 Turkish citizens have been voluntarily repatriated and all the
necessary accommodations have been provided to them by the Turkish
There are also references in this section to the work of the European
Commission and the European Court of Human Rights.
The interpretation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in
paragraph 12 on the cases of Akdivar and others and Mentes and others is
nothing but a biased attitude since it does not take into consideration the
contents and the reasoning of these two judgments, which would otherwise
equally lead to different conclusions. The Government of Turkey had made
public its observations on the legal defects of the judgment of the European
Court of Human Rights in the case of Akdivar and others which was prior to
the judgment in the case of Mentes and others. The report does not bother to
make any reference to the reaction of the government to the said judgments,
even for the sake of pretended fairness.
In paragraph 13 the report goes further to misrepresent the process of
friendly settlement envisaged by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Commission is one of the most respectable organs of the Council of
Europe. In the conduct of its work, the Commission has several means at its
disposal. It is therefore very disappointing to see the wrong connotation
attached to the "friendly settlement" in the case of Ysiyok and others
by implying that the government paid "compensation" to the applicants. To be
accurate in legal terms, the payment made within the context of friendly
settlement cannot be referred to as "compensation" because the term
"compensation" may come into question only when a party to a litigation is
held responsible or a violation is attributed to one side of a legal
dispute. As regards a solution reached in accordance with the process of
friendly settlement, none of the parties are held responsible whatsoever.
There is a clear distinction between the implications of a violation as an
outcome of a legal dispute and a solution reached as a result of friendly
The assertion in paragraph 41 that "since 1995 the European Court of Human
Rights has announced as many as twelve judgments regarding violations of
human rights of people of Kurdish origin by the Turkish authorities" is
totally incorrect. First of all, the total number of the judgments in
relation to the allegations arising from the incidents that took place in
south-east Anatolia is four. They are the cases of Aksoy, Akdivar and
others, Kaya, Aydin, and Mentes and others. It is noteworthy to state that
neither the Commission of Human Rights nor the Court of Human Rights have
found any indication that the alleged violations were against people of
Kurdish origin. Moreover, this is a mere allegation raised by the terrorist
organisation, PKK, and its affiliates which both the Commission and the
Court have dismissed on every occasion.
There are other judgments of the European Commission of Human Rights which
could be of relevance for this section of the report, but it is
disappointing to see no reference to them.
The European Commission of Human Rights, in one of its decisions
(Application No. 27776/95) (A.G. and others against Sweden), stated clearly
that there is no discrimination applied against a part of Turkish citizens
in Turkey. The above-mentioned decision, relating to a request for
non-expulsion from Sweden to Turkey, reads as follows: "The Commission
concludes that is has not been established that there are substantial
grounds for believing that the applicants would be exposed to a real risk of
being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention in
Turkey". (Article 3: "No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment".)
In another recent decision, the European Commission of Human Rights
(Application No. 33124/96) (X against Netherlands) stated that the mere fact
that the applicant is of Kurdish origin is not in itself sufficient ground
to believe that he has reason to fear persecution. The decision stipulated
that, although accepting that the applicant was politically active in the
past, it cannot be said that, if expelled to Turkey, the applicant would
have reason to fear persecution or would run a risk of treatment contrary to
Article 3 of the Convention.
The decisions of the European Commission or Court of Human Rights also
affirm that the ethnic origin of Turkish citizens is not a cause of
Another example is a ruling of the Karlsruhe Administrative Court. According
to a report published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 23 December 1997, the
Karlsruhe Administrative Court ruled in its decisions A7K13114/95 and
A7K10026/96 on 17 September 1997, that belonging to the Kurdish community
was not in itself sufficient to claim refugee status and that each
individual application had to be considered on its own merits. On the other
hand, the Schleswig-Holstein State Administrative Court has ruled in a
similar sense more recently by its decisions 5A233/94 and 5A175/96.
The Karlsruhe Administrative Court in its above-mentioned decision also
stated that: "Because of their ethnic origin, the Kurdish people in Turkey
have neither in the past nor today been under persecution and even pressure
at the regional level. Kurdish people in Turkey have the opportunity of
moving to the western regions of the country."
As such, to claim that Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin migrate abroad
because of the policies of the Turkish Government, as alleged throughout the
report, is equally false. If such a claim were to be true it would be
impossible to explain why so many Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin live in
the western part of Turkey only because they prefer to. This fact indicates
clearly that the reason for migration from the south-east of Turkey either
to the west of the country or abroad is basically the economic situation
which deteriorated drastically as the result of the embargo against Iraq.
3. The section on the "situation in North Iraq"
With regard to this section it is very disturbing to see the persistent
criticism towards Turkey, even though this section should have been the most
elaborated part if we recall the mandate given to prepare such a study.
Even in the very limited paragraphs which are devoted to the situation in
northern Iraq, there are serious and important mistakes or omissions.
We in the Council of Europe should be very careful in employing certain
terminology, particularly with regard to sensitive areas.
The right description for the area is either north of the 36th parallel, or
northern Iraq; but definitely not "North Iraq" as stated in the report, as
if we were giving it a separate country status.
A very serious point contained in paragraph 47 is the attribution of
"government" status to the people living in the area. The Gulf crisis
resulted in a power vacuum and instability in northern Iraq. But there has
never been a reference in other international fora to a "government" status.
Another false approach is that, while talking about the population in the
area the only reference is made to the "Kurds". This is another example of
how we lose sight of the mandate given to us to prepare this study. Almost
all the Assembly documents upon which this study should have been built
refer to "Iraqi Kurdish population and other persecuted minorities", in
which along with the Kurds in northern Iraq, the Turcomans, the Assyrians
and even the Marsh Arabs in the south were given due consideration.
4. The section on the "influx of Kurdish migrants and asylum seekers in
The migration of "Kurds" to Europe is part of the general problem of
Global economic changes have made Europe an attractive location for
movements of goods, capital and persons. People of all ethnic origins from
all countries which are relatively poorer have moved to western Europe, not
only from east to west, but also from south to north. Although this
phenomenon is of great concern for the receiving country, it is also
disturbing for the countries on the transit route. We need to pay particular
attention to the countries on Europe's sea or land borders. It is worth
noting here that Spain refused entry at its borders to around 150 000
illegal migrants from North Africa in 1997.
What is important here is not the ethnic origins of migrants but the
phenomenon of migration itself. To reduce the question to an ethnic one will
result in overlooking its socio-economic aspects or will fail to find a
satisfactory response to the question as to why so many people with a wide
variety of ethnic origins are migrating to western Europe.
One of the most acute problems the western European countries are facing
today is the question of illegal migration. The recent incident of two ships
bringing migrants to Italy through illegal means is only an example of this
This event was a blatant case of illegal trafficking in human beings, an
extremely serious form of organised crime. It is based on the exploitation
by international organised crime gangs of people's understandable desire to
have a better life.
In fact, the Action Plan adopted by the General Affairs Council of the
European Union on 26 January 1998 underscored this problem. According to the
information furnished by the British chairmanship to the press on the Action
Plan "it would seem there is an organised trafficking racket" " given the
extent of the current inflow of migrants and the itineraries they are
taking, there is no doubt that a large part of the illegal immigration is
planned and organised in advance by traffickers, which is why the Action
Plan approved by the General Affairs Council provides for all the
information relating to the participation of criminal organisations in this
field, including the production of false documents, should be collected,
analysed and duly exploited".
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has dealt with the same
problem before. The Assembly's Recommendation 1211 (1993) reiterated that
"clandestine migration is due, in particular, to the growing demand in
Europe for unskilled, poorly-paid labour, and can neither resolve employment
problems in western Europe nor stimulate economic growth in the less
developed countries." In the same recommendation it is also stated that
"faced with the current restrictions and difficulties in entering western
Europe, would-be immigrants are increasingly resorting to traffickers and
organised networks ", "traffickers and organised networks are generally
well-established both in countries of origin and in receiving countries:
they put migrants in touch with employers offering clandestine work", "the
migrants, victims of unscrupulous traffickers, are not always aware of their
illegal migrant status or of the strict entry conditions in force in the
host countries ", "the trafficking and employment of clandestine migrants
are often linked to other forms of international organised crime".
Illegal migration has always been a source of concern for Turkey as well.
She has consistently sought multilateral co-operation against all forms of
organised crime and international terrorism. She has drawn attention to
their interrelation, to the funding of terrorism by organised crime like
human trafficking and to the international networks of crime established in
many countries under various guises.
Turkey has been subject to several migration waves during the course of
history. It should be recalled that in 1988 and in 1991 more than half a
million refugees from northern Iraq found shelter in Turkey. Iranian masses
fleeing the newly-established radical Islamist regime, Bulgarian Turks and
Bosnians were also welcomed in Turkey.
The report talks about the geographical reservation of Turkey to the 1951
Geneva Convention. In the convention, signatory states were given the option
of adhering to the convention with geographic preference. Turkey, in the
light of this option, became a party to this convention with a declaration
of geographic preference. It assumed responsibility only for refugees
originating from Europe. The main reason for this preference is our
country's geographic location. In fact, the "safe third country" concept
adopted by the European Union in the 1990s made the geographical preference
of Turkey all the more important.
Nevertheless, the Turkish authorities are expending every effort to fulfil
their responsibilities to "temporary asylum seekers". Contrary to what is
indicated in the report, asylum seekers from Turkey's eastern borders are
being admitted on humanitarian grounds, and solutions to their problems are
being sought in close co-operation with the UNHCR. An exclusive regulation
was issued by the Turkish authorities in 1994 in order to facilitate this
procedure. It is a fact that the vulnerable geographic location of Turkey
leads to illegal entries from its borders with Iran and Iraq. The
difficulties do not emanate from their entry into Turkey by illegal means
but arise from non-compliance with this regulation.
There are several factors which make Turkey a transit route in the eyes of
the migrants. The main reasons for this are:
* common borders (Turkey has a 378 km long border with Iraq, a 529 km
long one with Iran, out of a total of 2 875 km long land borders also
with Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Nahjevan, Armenia and Georgia, as well as
6 000 km long sea shores);
* the geographically bridging location of Turkey between Asia and Europe;
* extremely liberal policies of most European countries (in this respect,
Europe has become a magnet for illegal migrants who enter Turkey from
neighbouring or far-away countries. Those who realise that some of
their relatives and friends have been easily granted refugee status in
some European countries are tempted to follow suit. These people do not
mind using the illegal services of organised crime gangs as long as
they are able to reach Europe and acquire refugee status there. Thus,
Turkey inevitably becomes a springboard for them due to its geographic
and last but not least,
* the presence of the terrorist organisation, PKK, hand-in-hand with
international crime organisations engaging in trafficking in drugs and
There are some migrants who use Turkey as a transit route to western Europe,
by entering Turkey ostensibly as tourists with valid passports and travel
documents, and then leaving for the West. There are others who enter Turkey
with the use of forged passports and visas through the legal ports of entry,
and some others who arrive on Turkish soil via illegal means. No matter how
they have entered the country, they almost invariably fall into the hands of
the international organised crime gangs which are specialised in trafficking
them to the West.
In short, on the one hand there are people originating from different
countries and seeking a better life in Europe, and on the other, organised
crime gangs helping them to achieve their goal. In between, Turkey becomes a
The problem should be diagnosed correctly so that the right remedies can be
found. Human trafficking generates huge sums of income which attract the
organised crime gangs and terrorist organisations. In other words, terrorism
and organised crime work hand-in-hand. Turkey has for a long time been not
only trying to explain this phenomenon to its friends in Europe, but also
fighting with the organised crime gangs with all the means available to her.
At the same time, she has concluded agreements with thirty-two countries,
including Italy, in order to combat terrorism and organised crime.
Obviously, more needs to be done in this field at both bilateral and
In 1996 a total of 18 804 migrants, mainly from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India,
Bangladesh, Syria and Rwanda, who had entered Turkey through illegal means,
were apprehended by the Turkish security authorities. 67.5% of them were
Iraqis. In 1997,
22 429 such persons were captured, 70.6% of them from Iraq.
There is a huge amount of evidence shared within Interpol underlining the
fact that the PKK is actively involved in human trafficking as well as other
organised crimes. Notwithstanding all this evidence, in the case of Ararat
it is very important to note a statement issued via the Italian News Agency
ANSA by ERNK, the political wing of this terrorist organisation, two days
before this ship ran aground near Italian shores, saying that "a ship
carrying some 800 Kurdish refugees was on its way to Italy". Thus, exactly
two days before this ship was detected by the Italian authorities, the PKK
had already made this incident public for the first time.
A recent and striking example of the PKK connection in human trafficking was
in the "Report" programme aired by the German ARD television channel on 19
January 1998, which included statements by a gang member convicted of human
trafficking. In his own words the convict said: "Our organisation is not
directly linked with the PKK, but on several occasions we had to pay ransom
to the PKK in order to do our job. The PKK itself is also involved in human
trafficking. In Greece there is no permission to the others. My organisation
can only smuggle people into Greece, but from Greece onwards it is
exclusively a PKK job".
It is indeed important to recall that in the first days of the Ararat
incident, there were some reports in the Italian press that the ships
carrying illegal migrants were set on course by the PKK in co-operation with
mafia groups. In the following days, however, the incident started to be
presented to the public as a manifestation of the Kurdish problem.
Relatively low standards of living and unemployment in certain regions of
Turkey initiate emigration from Turkey also, as is the case in many other
countries. In other words, there are also Turkish citizens who migrate to
western Europe, almost exclusively to attain a better life in economic
terms. According to the figures announced by the UNHCR spokesperson in
Geneva on 6 January 1998, 224 000 new asylum applications were lodged in the
European Union in 1996, of which around 116 000 were lodged in Germany
alone. Of this overall number, around 22 000 were Iraqis, half of whom filed
applications in Germany. Around 35 000 Turkish citizens sought asylum in
western Europe in the same year.
These people try to portray themselves as genuine asylum seekers so as to
obtain refugee status. In most cases, declaring that they are Kurds is
sufficient to obtain this status. Such policies on the part of some European
countries obviously encourage other economically deprived people to follow
suit and illegally migrate to those countries. So long as such refugee
policies are in force, the waves of people flowing into Europe will not
cease. It is an open secret that many of these people, once they have
obtained refugee status, visit Turkish consular missions in order to obtain
As to the Ararat and Cometa incidents, it is hard to understand why the
people on board have been referred to as Kurds. The Turkish citizens on
board constituted a small minority and the rest were composed of Iraqis, Sri
Lankans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Iranians, Afghanis and Azerbaijanis. If
one assumes that all the people coming from Iraq were of Kurdish origin, the
percentages would still be too low for the event to be regarded as "influx
of Kurdish refugees".
Besides, those who are coming from northern Iraq are not necessarily of
As a matter of fact, on 9 February 1998 the Turkish gendarmerie captured
eighty-six Iraqis and three Sri Lankans in Marmaris, Mugla district, aiming
at fleeing to Greece and then to other western European countries through
illegal means. The gendarmerie found out that all of these Iraqis were of
Turkmen origin. Or is there also an assumption that all those Turkish
citizens were Kurds, so as to present the problem as a political one?
IV. Why we oppose the present report
The concern of the Bureau to request the inclusion on the agenda of the
January part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly of an item dealing with
the recent flow of migration to Europe was justifiable as long as it was
meant to look for remedies to the problem of illegal migration.
The real issue is the urgent need for effective co-operation among the
countries who directly or indirectly suffer from the illegal flow of
migration. We should not lose sight of the fact that this co-operation
cannot be realised without the effective participation of all countries
involved, including Turkey.
We need a clear definition of what we are aiming at. The report is uncertain
whether the main concern can be described in "humanitarian" terms. As a
matter of fact, the inclinations seem to be rather "political" in most parts
of the document. As such, it is a misrepresentation, is partially and
totally misleading, and is thus totally unacceptable.
Last year, during the September part-session, our Assembly debated and
adopted a report prepared by Mr López Henarez, with regard to co-operation
in the fight against terrorism, in which we once more reiterated our
"forceful and unreserved condemnation of acts of terrorism ". This report
clearly referred to the PKK as a terrorist organisation, and Turkey as among
the countries which suffers from terrorism.
We are all here to pursue the aim of the Council of Europe, which is to
achieve greater unity among us for the purpose of safeguarding and realising
the ideals and principles which are our common heritage and facilitating our
economic and social progress. No one can argue that supporting the cause of
terrorism is among the ideals and principles referred to in Article 1 of the
Statute of the Council of Europe.
Note: 1 For example in January 1997 there were reports of large-scale
detentions by the gendarmerie in the Lice district of Diyarbakir based on
the refusal of villagers to become village guards (1997 Human Rights Watch
Report). Journalists and human rights monitors were not permitted to enter
Note: 2 Currently the UK-based Kurdish Human Rights Project has assisted
over 50 applicants in their applications to the European Commission of Human
Note: 3 Sometimes referred to as Ninive or Ninova Camp
Note: 4 eg. Dr Seyfettin Kizilkan, President of Diyarbakir Medical
Association, or Sanar Yurdatapan, spokesman for the organisation promoting
reconciliation in the south-east ´ Together in Peace ª , charged under
Art.169 with supporting the PKK.
Note: 5 On 26 November 1997 the Court decided that the Turkish authorities
had violated Articles 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5 of the European Convention relating
to the excessive length of detention pending trial.
Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: taken into account in the budgetary
appropriations of the Assembly.
Reference to committee: Order No. 460 (1991), Doc. 6604 and Reference No.
1785 of 4 May 1992.
Draft recommendation and draft order adopted by the committee on 29 May 1998
with respectively 11 votes in favour, 5 votes against and 0 abstentions and
10 votes in favour, 3 votes against and 3 abstentions.
Members of the committee : Mr Díaz de Mera (Chairman), Mr Iwiñski,
(Vice-Chairman), Mrs Aguiar, MM. Akselsen, Amoruso, Andres, Árnason, Mrs
Arnold, MM. Atkinson, Aushev, Beaufays, Billing, Bogomolov, van den Bos,
Brancati, Mrs Brasseur, Mrs Busiæ, MM. Cardona, Christodoulides, Chyzh,
Clerfayt, Connor, Debarge, Dinçer, Mrs Fehr (Alternate: Mrs Vermot-Mangold),
MM. Filimonov, Fuhrmann, Mrs Garajová, MM. Gremetz, Jakic, Mrs Johansson,
Lord Judd, MM. Junghanns, Kalus, Kozlowski, Kukk, Mrs Kusnere, Mr Laakso,
Mrs Langthaler, MM. Lauricella, Laurinkus, Làzàrescu, Le Jeune, Liapis
(Alternate: Korakas, Vice-Chairman), Loukota, Luís, Melo, Mészáros,
Micheloyiannis, Minkov, Molnár, Mutman, Rakhansky (Alternate: Khunov),
Ruffy, von Schmude, Sincai, Mrs Soutendijk-van Appeldoorn, MM. Tahir,
Vangelov (Alternate: Tripunovski), Wray (Alternate: Lord Ponsonby), N*
(Alternate: Mrs Guirado, Vice-Chairperson).
N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in
Secretaries of the committee: MM. Newman and Adelsbach.