European Federation of Journalists

Switzerland: Turkish journalist Perihan Kaya’s asylum request must be granted

Credits: Perihan Kaya

Kurdish journalist Perihan Kaya, who found refuge in Switzerland, is facing deportation to Croatia as her asylum request has been rejected twice. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joins its Swiss affiliate impressum and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in asking the Federal Supreme Court (BVGer) to refrain from deporting the journalist, who faces imprisonment in Turkey.

Perihan Kaya risks deportation to Croatia, the first country through which she travelled when fleeing Turkey. Going back to Croatia would be extremely dangerous for the politically prosecuted journalist, who had been detained for two days there, where she was subjected to inhumane treatments similar to torture by Croatian police forces. If Croatia were to transfer the journalist to Turkey, Switzerland would be jointly responsible for the deportation, which is contrary to human rights and international law.

Perihan Kaya has worked as a journalist for 15 years in Turkey specialising in human rights. She exposed oppression policies against Kurdish people, and worked for women-oriented newspapers. Two well-known publications she used to write for are Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and the women’s news agency Jinha. Dicle News Agency and Jinha have been closed by the decision of the State of Emergency law enacted in Turkey in 2015. The closure of these outlets left Kaya unemployed for a while, but she landed on her feet and started working as a freelance journalist for several media outlets.

Because of the topics she covered, Kaya has open charges against her: “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “being a member of a terrorist organisation”. The court first sentenced Kaya to one year and three months in prison for “propaganda”. In another file, dating December 2021, the Court sentenced the journalist to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president”, a story that emerged from her Twitter account.

In the face of the threats, she flew to Turkey on 1 August 2022. Her journey took her to Sarajevo, and she was later caught by the Croatian police and detained for two days, during which she was humiliated and abusively treated physically, sexually and psychologically. After two days of detention, policemen left her and a group of people in a similar situation to a border, asking them to leave after forcing them to leave their fingerprints and signed some documents. The journalist arrived in Zagreb, before coming to Milan via the Slovenian border. From Slovenia, she reached Switzerland, and applied for asylum in Lugano.

In Switzerland, she applied for asylum twice: the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) refused both her requests. Her file is now in the hands of the Federal Administrative Court, which overturned SEM’s first decision on the ground that it violated the right to a fair hearing. If her second try at the BVGer is denied, Kaya, based on the Dublin Convention, will be sent back to Croatia. There, she is at high risk of arrest, and risk being deported back to Turkey as Croatia has good diplomatic relations with the Turkish regime.

In a resolution adopted on 12 May 2023, the EFJ called on the Swiss authorities to refrain from deporting or repatriating Perihan Kaya. The EFJ is further convinced that the journalist’s asylum application will be well-founded and that she should be given the right to stay and work in Switzerland.