2015 VISIT Turkey RSO Kanerva SantosOSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (seated left) and OSCE PA human rights Chairperson Isabel Santos (seated center) meet Syrian children at Harran refugee camp, 21 January.COPENHAGEN, 21 January 2015 – A senior delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly led by President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) and human rights and humanitarian committee Chairperson Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal) today visited a refugee camp in Harran, Turkey, near the country’s border with Syria, to observe conditions and raise awareness of the worsening human toll of the Syrian crisis.

“Turkey continues to take on an enormous humanitarian responsibility as the nightmare across the border continues. The government’s efforts and the amount of resources it has devoted in response to the refugee crisis are impressive and worthy of praise. At the same time, only a fraction of Syrian refugees can be accommodated in camps and more are crossing the border daily. The international community must not grow complacent and must boost its assistance to this vulnerable population right now,” Kanerva and Santos said in a joint statement.

The Harran refugee camp houses approximately 14,500 of the estimated 1.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey today and includes schools, medical and other facilities.

“We spoke to women, men and families whose lives have been torn apart. They don’t know when, if ever, they will be home again. Still, many know they are lucky just to have made it this far. This is not a Syrian problem or a Turkish problem now, but a problem for the world’s conscience. We urge leaders from across the OSCE area and beyond to work closely with Turkey and do more to help mitigate the impact of this crisis on the real lives behind the statistics,” they added.

Kanerva and Santos were joined on the visit by OSCE PA Vice-President Emin Onen (MP, Turkey), human rights and humanitarian committee Vice-Chair Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu (MP, Turkey), Secretary General Spencer Oliver and Director of Presidential Administration Roberto Montella.

The delegation met earlier on 21 January with the governor of Harran district and the mayor of Harran city. The delegation is scheduled to meet with representatives of several NGOs later in the day.

On 20 January in Ankara, Santos met with Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, who is responsible for the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the agency which manages the country’s refugee camps. She also met with Ayhan Sefer Ustun, chair of Human Rights Examination Commission in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly.

Topics of discussion included the history of Turkey’s response to the refugee crisis and current initiatives; the associated legislative framework; prognoses for the size and scope of the crisis in the coming year; and the role of the international community and NGOs in providing humanitarian assistance.

An OSCE PA delegation previously visited refugees near the Turkey-Syria border in November 2012.

At the PA’s 2013 Annual Session in Istanbul, parliamentarians adopted a Resolution that “urges OSCE participating States to comply with their commitments to humanitarian matters in order to offer the greatest possible assistance to Syrian refugee.” It further “calls on OSCE participating States to provide the greatest possible support to the governments of Turkey and Jordan with a view to a greater coordination in the provision of assistance to Syrian refugees.”

At the PA’s 2014 Annual Session in Baku, parliamentarians adopted a comprehensive Resolution on refugees in the OSCE area, covering refugees’ rights, the responsibilities of and burdens placed upon host countries, legislative measures, family reunification and the need for a common OSCE policy on receiving refugees.

OSCE parliamentarians have also discussed the situation in Syria and the refugee crisis during several special debates within the Assembly’s Mediterranean Forum.

Santos is expected to report on her trip to the PA's Winter Meeting next month and will lead discussion in the Assembly’s human rights and humanitarian committee on the rights of migrants and refugees.

Click here for photos from the visit.