Just when we thought we were beginning to miss home we were given a little taste of England within the oak panelled walls of the British Embassy. Thanks to some last minute coordination with UKBA before we left for Turkey, we were able to arrange a meeting with the Ambassador in Ankara, as well as one of the Migration Delivery Officers that the UK has posted around the world. The meeting provided us with the unique perspective of the Foreign Office wing of UKBA, a team that is charged with delivering the government’s migration management programme through the delicate art of international diplomacy.
The Queen´s visit the previous week had kept them all busy, but the Ambassador was keen to hear more about our project and particularly the links we are developing internationally. One such valuable contact is the European Commission (EC), whose representatives we met at the end of the week. The EC sponsors a number of twinning projects in Turkey including a border management initiative involving the UK. The UK´s participation in this initiative as a partner of the Turkish government puts it in an unparalleled position of influence. While the UK can share with Turkey its own experience of migration management and border security, this could also be an opportunity for the UK to prove its commitment to the 1951 Convention and encourage high standards of refugee protection on the borders of Europe.
The EC has also funded a major project being implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Turkey, who welcomed us to their offıce on a hot and sticky Friday afternoon. This particular project featured a capacity building element to assist the Turkish authorities, law enforcement agents and judiciary to prepare for the lifting of the geographic limitation and the recognition and integration of non-European refugees within Turkey. They are also doing some awareness-raising including national and international workshops for local governors and the media.
However, not all the good work is done by large international organisations, and we were lucky to meet with one of many individuals working tirelessly in Turkey to support refugees and asylum seekers. As an immigrant himself he is committed to relieving one of the most pressing challenges faced by refugees in Turkey: the lack of access to legal and safe employment. He proposed an exciting and innovative solution to this issue; a system of micro-credits to provide refugees not only with employment but with financial independence and dignity. The Refugee Council´s campaign on access to work in the UK has emphasised the damage that can be done both to individuals and to society at large if asylum seekers are not able to work for long periods of tıme. İn Turkey, this takes the form of widespread poverty, exclusion and exploitation in the informal labour market and sex industry. Hope is a precious commodity amongst the refugees in Turkey but it is easily eroded and when the chance of resettlement finally arrives it can often be too late to rehabilitate a life destroyed by poverty and exclusion.