New initiative from “Hrant Dink” foundation: focus group gathering on Armenian and Turkish migrants’ legal issues

Various factors and approaches should be included in human trafficking coverage and awareness campaigns. The multilayered problem itself commands the need of various forms of behavior of the involved parties.  The adoption of incessantly updating working tools has a clear targeted explanation-prevent trafficking through raising awareness campaigns by predicating the features of actions of recruiters and traffickers. Based on this firm principle, in 2015, Arzuman Harutyunyan (President of “Association of Audio-Visual Reporters” NGO) initiated a visit to Turkey, Istanbul with the assistance of travel grant of “Hrant Dink” Foundation and the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The selected country has always been a sex trafficking destination country for Armenian migrants.

Even though Turkey and Armenia have recognized one another as sovereign states, they have failed to establish diplomatic relations so far. Despite the absence of diplomatic relations and the sealed border, there is a growing cross-border mobility and interaction between the citizens, students, businesses and institutions of the two countries who cannot benefit from bilateral legal protection arrangements and direct consular services.

In Istanbul a meeting was held with the participation of a number of local and international organizations to highlight the trafficking problem and clarify the assistance mechanisms. The corporation with this format also had its logical continuation.

In December 2016 with the initiation of “Hrant Dink” Foundation, focus group meeting was convened in Istanbul with the aim to suggest solutions to migration problems for Armenian and Turkish citizens with the direct participation of the stakeholders involved in relevant activities.

During the meeting the following points were on the spotlight of discussion:

  • What are the issues faced by Armenia citizens and migrants in Turkey and Turkey citizens in Armenia in the absence of diplomatic relations? (issuance of official documents, residency and work permits, deportation, right to education, deportation, extradition, trafficking)
  • Can the relevant laws and regulations in Armenia and Turkey offer any opportunities to address these issues? What are the existing/and suggested mechanism of cooperation between the legal enforcement officials of both countries?
  • What are the opportunities offered by international conventions/organisations? (UN Conventions, Council of Europe Conventions, EU Acquis)
  • What are the possible mechanisms/models of cooperation between legal experts, academics and civil society organisations of both countries, in addressing the issues faced by citizens?
  • What are the issues related to the Armenian and Turkish citizens and migrants in Turkey and Armenia in the absence of diplomatic relations?
  • Can the targeted laws and regulations of Turkey propose any solution to the problems: legal support mechanisms and terms of cooperation?
  • What opportunities are allowed to join international conventions?
  • What are the possible models aimed at resolving the problem?

The meeting involved representatives of the Armenian and Turkish academic institutions, lawyers, advocates, journalists, non-governmental organizations, consultants, individuals representing the interests of the Armenian community in Turkey and trustees of “Hrant Dink’s” Armenian School Governing Board. The meeting was organized in Human Rights Department at Istanbul, Bilgi University aiming to expand the audience of participants involved in the legal framework on this issue.

Through in-depth interviews and specialized focus groups in both countries, the rapporteurs/consultants mapped the existing obstacles before bilateral relations and explored possible future opportunities in various fields including trade, business, tourism, transportation, technology, academic, medical and cultural cooperation, humanitarian assistance, legal aid, etc.
During the conference it was analyzed the general issues of the legal status of Armenian migrants in Turkey, the mechanisms of existing problems, parallels were taken with  offered / provided accommodation and support of the migrants that left for Turkey from Syria.

 Anna Galstyan (Program Manager of “Association of Audio-Visual Reporters” NGO) spoke about the vulnerability of victims and from the status of legal migrant to trafficking victim position problems, presenting the statistics of already identified cases, forms of transportation and exploitation of Armenian migrant workers, the structure of Armenian working group on the fight against trafficking, functions and activities of each department a
nd informational targeted platform.

Given the situation together with invited experts/legal experts from both countries was reviewed and recommend possible protection mechanisms for civil, social, economic, migrants and children’s rights with respect to protection of citizens/businesses of Armenia in Turkey and citizens/businesses of Turkey in Armenia.

The summary of the discussions, presentations, situational events’ analysis and coordination to resolve the issues are still in the process.

Throughout this process, the rapporteurs convened specialized focus groups to discuss the pre-specified themes in details with subject experts from Armenia and Turkey, and to generate to-the-point solutions. By the end of the process, the rapporteurs compiled in a report their findings as well as bullet-point recommendations about the suggested steps for moving forward. This exercise helped to particularly study the legal aspects of the situation.

Clearly, the chain of meetings will be continued aiming to create informative platform for the solutions of migration problems which will lead to the maintenance of the norms of the legal status of Armenians living in Turkey and vice versa.  

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