A year of impunity: A one year visual database of migration-related human rights abuses [report]


After collecting over 300 reports throughout the last year, curating our mapping platform and analyzing collected data, OHRFMT releases its final report.

Executive summary


The following report (download here), entitled A year of impunity: A one year visual database of migration-related human rights abuses, was prepared by the Observatory for Human Rights and Forced Migrants in Turkey (OHRFMT) and released in July 2017.

The main findings of this report are as follows:

  • OHRFMT concludes that reports relating to readmission back to Turkey from the EU were highly inconsistent and under reported, often with large time gaps between them. Furthermore, content of reports failed to indicate the fate of those sent back to Turkey.
  • In reports relating to arrests, OHRFMT recorded a total of 322 arrests from 42 different countries. This showed the demographic breadth of Turkey’s migrant population. Most arrests took place in coastal areas or following interception at sea. In the case of the latter, the Observatory is concerned about the legal grounding of arrests at sea and the high possibility of ‘push backs’ of which are in breach of the concept of non-refoulement.
  • Whilst processing report data, OHRFMT found that there was consistently a correlation between discrimination and issues relating to problems in accessing goods and services guaranteed by various human rights instruments. It found that in the majority of cases, refugees were not able to access, for instance, educational or health facilities due to their unclear status within Turkey.
  • OHRFMT found that in reports relating to abuse / exploitation, those individuals within the vulnerable sector most often became the targets to acts of violence and physical or sexual exploitation. Children were the primary victims, but findings showed that abuse and exploitation was also gendered, with young girls and women taking up the second largest target demographic. Data showed that in 51% of the reports, the identity of the perpetrator was either unknown or unspecified. OHRFMT is concerned that state authorities are not holding perpetrators accountable and/or undertaking adequate investigations on these serious acts.
  • In reports relating to loss of life, OHRFMT determined that most deaths occurred in transit areas, either within the Aegean Sea or at Turkey’s eastern border. OHRFMT would like to underline the responsibility that Turkey has towards providing safe passage for all.

As a result of these findings, the following recommendations have been made.

  • OHRFMT recommends that a database of returns to Turkey be made publicly available.
  • OHRFMT would like to remind Turkey of its responsibility towards to principle of non-refoulement and asks that refugees intercepted in transit zones and currently in detention / processing facilities be made accessible to lawyers.
  • OHRFMT recommends that Turkey suspend its geographic limitation to the 1951 Refugee Convention and allow all forced migrants within its national borders to apply for formal refugee status.
  • As collected reports have repeatedly shown that children, girls and women make up the majority of victims of discrimination, abuse and exploitation, OHRFMT reminds Turkey that it has a responsibility to protect those within the vulnerable sector.
  • OHRFMT recommends that Turkey take affirmative action to provide safe passage to all who wish to transit through its territory and do all it can to preserve the right to life of those transient refugees.

OHRFMT believes that the vast majority of those mentioned in collected reports should have access to a formal asylum process to make a claim for refugee status. As a result, you will find that the Observatory often refers to forced migrants within Turkey as ‘refugees’ albeit these individuals not having formal Convention Refugee status. This is intentional, not a mistake.

New media and migrant solidarity [slides + video]


Using cellphones, social media application and application-based communication tools, forced migrants have been able to organise, coordinate their movements and communicate with family and friends. Activism, notably migrant solidarity work, has benefited from these same tools. Arguably, it’s no secret that new media has defined many elements of contemporary activism and advocacy.  Data can now be fluidly organised and illustrated, multiple people can be digital contributors to projects and campaigns, and information on forced migration trends is easier to access than ever before.


In early October 2016, the Migrant Solidarity Network, based in Istanbul, asked me to prepare a presentation on how new media can strengthen migrant solidarity. In one hour, the presentation covered the history of social media, its role in activism and an overview of past and present projects that use new media to conduct advocacy.

Slides for the presentation can be viewed and downloaded here.

You can view the presentation below, or by following this link.

Syrian refugee inflow and risk perception in Izmir, Turkey: Understanding Turkish attitudes through the evaluation of cultural cognition [thesis/dissertation]


Since early 2011, Syria has been undergoing a brutal civil war, displacing millions within the country and forcing others to seek protection in adjacent countries. Turkey, amongst other regional refugee-hosting countries, has taken in the bulk of Syrian forced migrants. The impact of these refugees on Turkey, still developing as time goes on, is largely undocumented amidst the development of Turkish attitudes towards this group of over two million migrants. This exploratory research sought to investigate these attitudes, utilising cultural cognition as a theoretical sounding board. Delimited to the city of Izmir, the aims of this research were to ascertain what perceived risks Syrian refugees pose onto Turkish society, how these perceptions relate to worldview adherences amongst Turkish citizens and what psychological processes may explain the development of such perceptions.

Utilising a mixed-methods approach, triangulation of both news article and focus group content analyses identified five commonly percieved risks relating to Syrian refugee entry into Turkey: employment, inflow, social, political and security. This information informed the design of a survey instrument, of which was used to compare worldview adherences to perceptions of said risks and demographic characteristics. Results showed that egalitarians, for two of the five risks, perceived the refugees as a higher risk than those with hierarchist identities. It was also found that individuals with higher education and employment were more likely to perceive Syrian refugees as a risk to Turkish society. As a starting point to explore the development of such perceptions of risk, the processes of identity-protective cognition, reactive devaluation, self-censorship and optimism bias were utilised to explicate the data.

In conclusion, as very little research of this kind has been undertaken within academia, this was an exploratory research that provided a well-needed foundation for future research on refugee inflow and host country perceptions of risk.

Full document

Not available as it is currently being prepared for publication.


This thesis/dissertation was produced for the MSc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management at the University of Leicester. By both the review board and the Board of Examiners, this thesis was graded at “Distinction” level.