Turkey update No.1 – The Terminal - Refugee Council
May 22, 2008

Turkey update No.1 – The Terminal

By Sile and Helen, International Protection Policy Team

Our first few days in Istanbul have been intense to say the least.  We’ve mastered the public transport system, learnt a few choice words of Turkish and spent some quality time with a local refugee support NGO.  As our hosts, they have provided us with a much needed base from which we can plan our research and, more importantly, have given us their time, expertise and extensive contacts list to assist us in identifying key agencies to interview.  We’ve already held a number of meetings with local NGOs who provide a range of services to refugees including legal advice, social assistance and outreach to vulnerable members of the community such as refugee women and children.  The information we are gaining from such agencies should give us a much better understanding of the options open to refugees in Turkey and their motivations for continuing their journey to the UK or another EU Member State.  We are also learning more about the sort of journeys people are undertaking in order to seek protection in a safe country and the dangers they experience along the way.

We have also been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to a number of airlines based in the departure terminal at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.  We’ve been learning about the procedures involved in document verification, passenger profiling and the identification and interception of unauthorised travellers.  These interviews have given us a unique insight into the priorities of private airlines and the challenges they face in meeting their obligations under Carriers’ Liability legislation and towards their passengers.  Refugees seem lost in the midst of this.

As we prepare to head east towards Ankara and the heart of Turkish government, our very own queen is enjoying the sights and hospitality of Istanbul before she heads back to the UK.  Let’s hope she makes it through immigration control.