Dates: August - September 2016
This research project examined aspects of ‘Seeking Legal Protection in Turkey: Challenges and Opportunities for Safe Passage’. In partnership with the think-tank ‘Dispatches’ in Graz, Austria, I had the opportunity to undertake fieldwork in Turkey to examine existing pathways to legal protection for asylum-seekers and to work with policy-makers and legislators on expanding such legal pathways.
Over the course of the months of August and September, I conducted interviews and collected data in three main sites: Istanbul, Gaziantep, and Antakya, Turkey, where I had the opportunity to meet with members of non-profit organizations, U.N. agencies, governmental ministries, civil society groups, and community-led organizations.
The aims of the project involved both a legal research component and a practical, policy component including:
1. Firstly, to examine the legal pathways (‘subsidiary protection’, ‘temporary protection’, ‘refugee status’) through which individuals seeking refuge could find legal protection in Turkey;
2. Secondly, to examine how existing legal pathways could be expanded beyond Turkey to afford protection status holders ‘safe passage’ in the European Union.
The data and insights that were collected led to three main outputs: firstly, while still in Turkey, I worked with the main migration editor at Open Democracy, Cameron Thibos, to launch a public series examining mechanisms of ‘safe passage’; secondly, after returning to the University of Oxford, I worked with colleagues and experts in my field to establish an Asylum Policy and Practices Advocacy Group with the support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); and lastly, I established an initiative, in tandem with colleagues in the field, to draft a ‘safe passage’ bill to be submitted to the Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee at the European Parliament.
On a personal level, I have been able to draw upon the knowledge, insights, and experiences I gained from the Fellowship to:
1. Present at the U.N. High-Level Summit on Migrants and Refugees held at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York between September 18th and 19th . I participated in the ECOSOC delegation discussions and presented my work on safe passage.
2. Assemble a sponsorship group – a group of 5 – to resettle to Toronto, Canada a Syrian family I worked with in Istanbul. I serve as the group representative for the group and am coordinating the resettlement of the family for July 2017.
3. Establish and lead a mentoring programme for refugee students who are interested in applying to study at the University of Oxford. After witnessing, first-hand, the barriers to education that many Syrian students face in Turkey, I partnered with the Oxford Students’ Refugee Campaign to establish a mentoring programme that matches existing students at the University with refugee students interested in applying, so that they can meaningfully prepare for their studies at the University.
Ultimately, this Fellowship was an immensely constructive, insightful, and challenging opportunity for me, both personally and academically, that I will continue to draw upon in my future academic and policy work.