Interior Ministry strikes further blow to academic freedom

Interior Ministry permission has been imposed on any academic research on Syrian refugees to be carried out at universities. The Higher Education Council (YÖK) decision was taken upon the request of the Migration Administration Department of the Interior Ministry.

The official notification sent out to all universities by the Higher Educational Council Directorate (YÖK) stating that any research on Syrian refugees has been subjected to the permission of the Interior Ministry has created debate. The notification dated 10 April 2015 states as grounds to the imposition of the restriction that intelligence has been received on personal data of Syrian foreigners being collected in field research projects. YÖK stated that the sharing of such data with third parties is in breach of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No. 6458 to which Syrian refugees are also subject to. It has been reported that the decision was taken upon the request of the Migration Administration Department of the Interior Ministry, and it also includes, in addition to universities and academicians, studies or research to be carried out by “foreign embassies, public institutes and institutions, international institutions and civilian society institutions”.

Unofficial restriction already imposed

Despite not receiving any official notification as of yet, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Refugee Advocacy and Support Program Projects Coordinator Hakan Ataman stated that they have been encountering the imposition of a permission requirement for a long time in local field surveys about Syrian refugees. Ataman stated that even their ‘needs analysis surveys’ in Kilis had been obstructed by the Kilis Governor’s Office on the grounds that registration, survey and permission work regarding refugees were from now on to be carried out exclusively by the Migration Administration.

An official for the Migration Administration stated that the decision had been taken to prevent the public disclosure of private data of Syrian refugees; although it remained unclear which information was included within the scope of ‘private/special data’. It is known that the Administration previously considered the number of Syrian refugees registered in a province as ‘private/special data’ and rejected a request for information. Civilian society institution officials stated that the Administration did not possess the authority to ‘allow research’.

Eğitim-Sen to resort to legal means

The first reaction to the imposition of a permission requirement came from Eğitim-Sen, the Education and Science Workers’ Union. In a written statement, Eğitim-Sen condemned the imposition and described it as a blow to academic activities and freedom. Eğitim-Sen further underlined that the notification constituted a prohibition, and that they will take the matter to court.   


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Emre Can Dağlıoğlu