Schaake, from the Democrats’66 Party, which is in favor of Turkey’s accession to the EU, recently visited Turkey to inquire into the situation of refugees, especially Iranian refugees who fled after the brutalities following last summer’s elections. As part of the visit she travelled to Ağrı. Speaking to Today’s Zaman in Ankara, she underlined that after the controversial presidential election in Iran last June, the number of the Iranian refugees increased. Many of them are coming to Turkey.
“We are here to learn more about the situation and inquire about ways to help the Turkish government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], who is responsible for the registration and resettling of refugees coming from Iran. We are also looking into the responsibilities of Europe on the issue,” said Schaake, who is a member of the Friends of Turkey group in the European Parliament.
“When we look at Iran, especially after the elections, the number of refugees is increasing. That also may put more pressure on the UNHCR system in Turkey, which needs extra attention,” she said.
According to Schaake, the EU should shoulder more responsibility for refugees especially when it comes to human rights defenders, victims of torture, religious minorities and gays and lesbians who are no longer able to live in their countries due to their sexual orientation. But she added that at present EU countries are reluctant to accept refugees.
“Compared to the US, the EU is taking barely any refugees at the moment. While thousands of refugees are going to US, only a few are able to come to Europe. Europe is a community of values, where human rights are most important. We have to practice what we preach,” she said.
She stressed that refugees face problems here in Turkey, too. They have to pay high fees, although they are not allowed to work and live in poor areas. She noted that for a refugee in Turkey, the waiting process for resettlement to a third country is too long. Schaake applauds the Turkish government’s initiative announced last week to lift the residence permit fees for refugees. “It is difficult for refugees to maintain themselves in a dignified manner, especially for the children, who are not able to attend the school. They get huge backlogs in education,” she stated.
Schaake recalled that the EU is supporting Turkey by helping to construct buildings for the refugees and training the Turkish people who deal with them.