28 September 2009
Denied protection in Turkey - refugees unlawfully detained
European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, FranceEvery year, thousands of people from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran arrive in Turkey seeking protection from persecution. Many of these people are arrested by Turkey’s security forces and are detained before being deported, often without any legal procedure being followed.

Although a party to the Refugee Convention, Turkey refuses to accept refugees coming from countries outside Europe. However, Turkey as a member of the Council of Europe is party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the rights of all persons within Turkey’s jurisdiction irrespective of their country of origin.  

On 22 September, the European Court of Human Rights, the court established under the European Convention on Human Rights, issued a decision in the case of two Iranian refugees, Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia. The case regarded events since June 2008, when the two men were apprehended in Turkey, arbitrarily refused access to the Turkish asylum procedure and put at risk of immediate deportation.

The Court ruled that the two men, who currently remain in detention in Turkey, had been unlawfully detained in Turkey for over a year and that the authorities had failed in their obligation to protect the men from a real risk of death or ill-treatment if returned to Iran or Iraq, stating:
The Court is struck by the fact that both the administrative and judicial authorities remained totally passive regarding the applicants' serious allegations of a risk of ill-treatment if returned to Iraq or Iran.
Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of Interior in Turkey in August regarding the two refugees and seven others. In a letter, the organization expressed concern that they remained in detention at Kirklareli Foreigners’ Guest-House despite a stay of deportation issued by the Court preventing their deportation from Turkey.

The letter highlighted the fact that their detention was unlawful and raised concern that their continued detention was in effect being used as a punitive measure in order to dissuade others from making applications to the Court.

Take ActionThe ruling represents a significant decision by the Court, with potential ramifications for scores of others currently detained in Foreigners’ Guest-Houses in Turkey.

Image: European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France ©APGraphicsBank
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End unlawful detentions

Dear Minister,
I am writing to you in view of your responsibility regarding the detention of people pending deportation in Foreigners’ Guest-Houses in Turkey.
I welcome the release on 23 September of Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia, following the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that their detention at the Kırklareli Foreigners’ Guest-House was unlawful. The judgment found that they did not have access to procedural rights protecting them against arbitrary detention and that therefore their detention was unlawful.
However, there are hundreds of others who are in detention in Foreigners’ Guest-Houses under the provision found to be unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. I believe these individuals should also be released without delay.
I also urge you to overhaul the rules governing the detention of people in Foreigners’ Guest-Houses in order to prevent any future unlawful detentions.
Yours sincerely,

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