In the midst of the critical situation in Turkey which has a huge impact on the education sector, ETUCE member organisations have united and are making enormous efforts to support colleagues facing life and freedom threatening challenges every day. Acknowledging the hard work made in defence of concerned colleagues and their rights and freedoms, the ETUCE Secretariat interviewed those who continue to provide teachers and other education personnel in Turkey with often urgent assistance.

The German education trade union GEW has been assisting colleagues, inter alia, searching for shelter and asylum in Germany.

On behalf of GEW, Marlis Tepe, the President of the union answered several questions.

Marlis, we know that in recent weeks more Egitim Sen colleagues together with their family members managed to escape from Turkey to Germany. We are aware that GEW actively supports education trade unionists seeking protection in Germany. What are the first steps GEW undertakes to help colleagues from Turkey settling in Germany?

This depends hugely on when we get to know that a refugee is in Germany. In some cases we know, that colleagues want to escape from Turkey or that they have left Turkey already, but we don’t know, if they will succeed and when and where they will arrive in Germany. We keep contact with the Greek education trade union OLME, because many refugees from Turkey enter the EU via Greece. There are cases where we only become aware of refugees, once they have arrived in our country. There are Egitim Sen colleagues who have been living as refugees in Germany for more than a year without us knowing. It also makes a difference if they have family members or friends in Germany or if they come alone or with their family.

There are other education trade union refugees from Iran in Germany, who are also supported by GEW.

What kind of support do you provide them with?

Refugees arriving in Germany have to register as asylum seekers. They have to wait for an interview by officials of the Federal Office of Migration and Refugess (BAMF) and a decision on their case. GEW is supporting the asylum seeking process of the refugees. Through our Heinrich Rodenstein Funds we finance specialised lawyers. GEW volunteers invite refugees and offer their support in daily life issues. And we go public with those who want: GEW organised more than 40 public events about the situation in Turkey with former Egitim Sen General Secretary Sakine Yilmaz since she arrived in Germany in August 2016. On the subject of professional bans, we conducted an event on 28 October in Kassel, which looked at professional bans in Germany in the 1970s and took a look at current bans on occupation in Turkey.

Assuming that the number of refugees from Turkey increases, what are your future strategies?

This is a new situation for us. GEW is not a refugee relief organisation. The refugees live in different parts of Germany and GEW is trying to assist them as good as we can. Most of the support is done by GEW volunteers in our local branches. If you want to support our work you can donate to our GEW Heinrich Rodenstein Fonds:

Heinrich-Rodenstein-Fonds

Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen Girozentrale

IBAN: DE88 5005 0000 0084 0001 24

BIC: HELADEFF

What kind of message would you like to send to colleagues in Turkey and other ETUCE member organisations?

We do not forget the Egitim Sen colleagues in Turkey, who have lost their jobs or are in prison, like Egitim Sen ExBo member Ebru Yiğit. She was a guest at our GEW congress in May 2017 in Freiburg and now she is in prison in Diyarbakır. You can write to her and send her a solidarity note. This is her address: Ebru Yiğit, Diyarbakır E Tipi Kapalı Ceza evi, Diyarbakır, Turkey.

GEW is one of many ETUCE member organisations assisting colleagues in Turkey and whose sense of solidarity and support know no borders.