Turkish state’s ongoing deportation campaign leaves many with fear | Hostile environment towards Syrian refugees grows beyond Turkey, including Lebanon and Jordan | Greece and Islands: not far from the context in Turkey | Threats and violations towards returnees in Syria | Turkey-US joint military talks on establishment of a safe zone in Northern Syria
Turkish State’s Ongoing Deportation Campaign Leaves Many With Fear:
As the deadline which Turkish authorities set for unregistered migrants to leave Istanbul, 20 August, approaches, different opinions and accounts of the deportations remain on the agenda past week (regardless that the deadline is announced to be extended to October 30th, after we have prepared this digest). We mentioned earlier the report released by We Want To Leave Together Initiative regarding the two weeks of deportations, which is available here now in English.
Another report has been released by Syrians for Truth and Justice/STJ, which documents several cases where Syrians, including young and old men, women with children and an unaccompanied minor, some of whom had Temporary Protection IDs, were deported to Syria. Several witnesses interviewed by STJ also told that their Turkish neighbors reported the houses where Syrians live to the authorities, and the police, for its part, intentionally raided these houses at midnight or dawn.
“Amidst the swirl, Syrian refugees were thunderstruck, for they resorted to Turkey wishing for safety after the war forced them out of their homeland, to be held captive by Turkish authorities and deported to Idlib province, given no chance to speak, take their personal belongings or at least inform their families. Many of the forcibly deported refugees told STJ that they signed the voluntary return form under the effects of beating and threats, which they suffered at the hands of Turkish police personnel, who also maltreated many others.”
The report claimed that the scrutiny and inspection campaigns were carried out in all provinces of Turkey, although most intensive in Istanbul. They refer to the website of Syria TV which gave the number of those deported by the Turkish authorities between 1-24 July as being 8750, quoting the director of the Public Relations Department of the crossing.
In his recent contribution to HarekAct, Sadek Abdul Rahman, a Syrian Journalist who is living in Istanbul, hightlights the impact of the the deportation campaign in striking massive fear upon Syrians. While the Turkish state is accusing people targeted by the campaign as being violators of certain obligations, he claims that the responsibility lies with the Turkish state who have not taken any serious steps to legalize the stay of Syrians, and instead, insist on invoking the term “guests” when addressing refugees.
“Even those who are not in violation of any obligations – meaning those who are living in their provinces with legal permits, a minority – still live under extreme fear. The law does not protect them, and any random Turkish police official could easily strip their rights at any given moment. The high wave of aggression, racist and hateful speech has been a catalyst for exacerbating this fear. “
A story covered by Evrensel Newspaper also demonstrate how the same fear is spreading among different migrant communities in Istanbul. An Afghan migrant worker they have interviewed in Çağlayan district of Istanbul tells that having to leave his home country which also has an internal conflict, now he is doing any kind of work in Turkey, living in a house with twenty people together, and adds “we have heard that Syrians will be sent back. Out of fear, we’re also not going to workers’ market we used to hang out in to find a job. There were workers from Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt… people from everywhere waiting for a job. Now nobody goes there because they are afraid that they will send us too.”
Hostile Environment Towards Syrian Refugees Grows Beyond Turkey, Including Lebanon and Jordan:
A report by AFP draws attention to how three main countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which host a total of 5.2 million Syrian refugees between them, are all increasingly seeing the population as a “burden”. Mounting hate speech and increased government pressure on Syrians to return home are being addressed by rights groups not only in Turkey but also in Lebanon. Regarding that matter, an analyst is quoted in the report as saying that political parties in those coutries “were using anti-refugee rhetoric to build political and electoral capital.”
Greece and Islands: Not Far From the Context in Turkey
Following the recent crackdown against migrants in Turkey and since the beginning of August, more and more reports are appearing which provide evidence of a striking increase in the number of arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkey. Drawing upon the statistics shared by UNHCR, a twitter user underlined the fact that a clear majority of people who were arriving to Greek islands come from refugee producing countries with an increase of the numbers of Afghans by 35%, Syrians by 15.6% and DRC by 12%. He was told by one arrivee that he had left Turkey out of fear that he would end up in Syria.
Similarly Aegean Boat Report also mentions an increase in arrivals and added that 225 boats were stopped in August by the Turkish coastguard and police.
On the other hand, after whenTurkey’s last campaign on irregular migration has started (12th of July), and Turkish ministry of interior declared the suspension of EU-Turkey deal, DM Aegean have reported deportations back to Turkey once again. 5 Sub-Saharan men were deported from Kos island. As DM-Aegean claimed earlier, it was apparently “not the first time that Turkey is putting pressure on the EU and Greece using the readmission scheme for bargaining” and it may not be the last time either.
All of these adding to the overall population of migrants in Greece, who are now facing harsher oppression and stricter controls under the new right-wing government of Greece, as mentioned with a call for solidarity by the Spirou Trikoupi 17 squat for refugees/migrants in Athens, Greece.
Some of the reports above covered the killing of Hisham Mustafa by border police during his attempt to cross to Turkey after being deported to Syria. The Washington Post reached to his family members who are living in Istanbul, registered. His father said “I lost my son, and we lost the one who supported us. I wish this shooting at people would stop.”
Threats and Violations towards Returnees in Syria: The Syrian Network for Human Rights released a report on 15 August documenting the human rights violations mainly conducted by the Syrian regime . Having documented the disappearance of at least 638 forcibly returned refugees, and the deaths of 15 due to torture, the report claims that Syrian refugees should never return to Syria . The report also calls on countries of asylum to end the racist harassment campaigns against Syrian refugees which is leading them to feel forced to return and thereby risk arrest, enforced disappearance or fatal torture. They urge these nations to assume their responsibilities in this regard and to stop forcibly returning Syrian refugees, which fundamentally violates the principle of non-refoulement in customary international law.
Turkey-US Joint Military Talks on Establishment of a Safe Zone in Northern Syria: The main points of the joint military talks were released to the press on 7 August, involving the implementation of measures to address Turkey’s security concerns in Northern Syria, and the building of a peace corridor into which displaced Syrians could return. Following this announcement, the Syrians for Truth and Justice have responded with four main recommendations. The first recommendation is:
“Any eventual agreement must ensure that no kind of human rights violations are committed against any groups/individual in the region, including the looting and seizing of civilians’ property, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, kidnappings and killings; as occurred during Operation Olive Branch, conducted by the Turkish army and Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition groups in Afrin district. We, therefore, recommend the establishment of an impartial monitoring mechanism, with the participation of Syrian civil society organizations and the United Nations.”