The official migration policy in Turkey has shifted in the summer months. The government has made serious alterations in its treatment of Syrians and other migrants in the country in response to increasing domestic pressure caused by anti-migrant sentiments, and as a means of political leverage to force the EU into supporting their plans for a ‘safe-zone’ buffer in North Syria. Just recently president Erdoğan emphasized his plans of sending up to three million Syrians in these so called ‘safe-zones’. Mid-July witnessed the start of an intense deportation campaign to the regions of north Aleppo and Idlib, which goes to show how serious Erdoğan is about his plans. In early September 2019, Erdoğan announced to “open the gates to Europe” should the EU not provide further financial support for the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the country. Meanwhile, the number of migrants arriving to the Greek islands has already increased immensely during the summer months.Continue reading HAREKACT NEWSLETTER VIII – July – September 2019
7th- 22nd september
Migrants on target of hate: mob violence in Adana and people assisting detentions in Istanbul | Festus Okey Case: Family’s participation is postponed | Erdogan insists on ‘safe zone’ while Greece insists on migration control | Further claims of ill-treatment in Harmandali detention center | Hunger strike of political refugee from Turkey | Returns and arrivals around the Aegean
Migrants on Target of Hate: Mob Violence in Adana and People Assisting Detentions in Istanbul
Residents of Mahmutbey neighborhood in Bağcılar district of Istanbul called the police around 22:00 on 19 September to inform them of noises coming from a workplace. After breaking into the workplace, police forces found a group of migrants inside. Some of the migrants resisted being arrested, the police asked for reinforcements and citizens involved themselves in assisting the capture of migrants who tried to run away. According to Diken, 108 migrants were arrested in total, as citizens applauded and cheered on the police (in Turkish) – 19.09.2019.
On the same night, a similar public unrest turned into an organized attack against Syrians, in the Dumlupınar nieghborhood of Adana province. A mass of locals became mobilized, violently attacking shops and houses of Syrians after an alleged incident of a child abuse. Like many other previous incidents, rumors spread quickly that the perpetrator was a Syrian. However, when the alleged perpetrator was later arrested, the Governorship of Adana released a statement saying he is considered to be a citizen of Turkey – 19.09.2019.
Human Rights Association (IHD) released a report following the violent attacks in Adana. The report concluded that 162 shops and 12 vehicles were ravaged while the police waited a long time before intervening. 25 people were arrested in relation to the attacks. But many Syrians in the neighborhood are still afraid to leave their houses and some have already left the area. According to some testimonies gathered in the report, the group leading the attack had come from outside of the neighborhood and police allowed them to march. Syrians’ shops were tagged with “Turk” and “TC” marks, and most of the open shops in the area hung Turkish flags after the incident.
Hatred towards Syrians in Turkey is also documented by another report, the 2018 Report on Hateful and Discriminating Discourse in Media, prepared by the Foundation of Hrant Dink (named after the Armenian journalist who was assassinated in 2007). Among the groups who are most frequently targeted by hate speech, Syrians come in the third place after Jews and Armenians.
Festus Okey Case: Family’s Participation is Postponed
After the legal case into his murder was reopened last December, the lawyers of Festus Okey travelled to South Africa to meet his family and gather the necessary documents to demand the family’s participation in the proceedings. On the third hearing, which was held on 19 September, the reports which document the DNA profiles of Okey’s family members were finally brought to court. However, the court ruled in favour of deferring the decision about the family’s participation under the pretext of requiring additional documents that are expected from the Ministry of Justice and Interpol Department. The next hearing will be held on 15 January. (See more in Turkish) – 19.09.2019.
Erdogan insists on ‘safe zone’ while Greece insists on migration control
Greece’s new right-wing Prime Minister, who has been fervent in focusing on migrants in his country via frequent arrests and evictions, has reacted to Erdogan’s threats to open the borders. Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, telling him not to threaten Greece and Europe in order to secure more money from the European Union, DW reports. Moreover, the Foreign Minister of Greece addressed the issue in a meeting in Berlin on 16 September with his German counterpart. At the joint statement released following the talks, Greek authorities were praised for the steps taken to address the ‘migration problem’, whereas Ankara was urged to stick with the EU-Turkey deal for migrant returns.
On the same day, Erdogan reiterated his safe zone plans through comments he made after talking with presidents of Russia and Iran. As BBC reported, he said that up to three million Syrian refugees could return to their country to live in a “safe zone” in the north. Erdogan said the zone – which is already being set up in co-operation with the US – needed to be extended in order for the goal to be met. – 16.09.2019
Further Claims of Ill-treatment in Harmandali Detention Center: According to Sendika.org, a migrant (with the initials A.İ) was exposed to torture and subsequently started a hunger strike in Izmir’s Harmandali Detention Center. The lawyer stated that his client might have been tortured because of denouncing the drug trafficking in the detention center – 11.09.2019.
Returns and Arrivals Around the Aegean
In Lebanon, rights activists and refugees themselves fear that they’re witnessing a wide government crackdown designed to increase pressure on Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return home. Between 21 May and 28 August, more than 2,730 Syrianswere sent back under the new rule, according to statistics released by General Security, a government intelligence agency that handles foreign residents. See more here.
On the Greek Islands, from mid-May this year, the number of asylum-seekers who have arrived to the Greek shores, has already exceeded the previous two years. It is reported that the arrivals have reached such a high amount as the first time the EU-Turkey deal was put into force in March 2016.
The Guardian addresses how the infrastructure on the Aegean islands is now at breaking point, taking Moria as an example. The main camp in Lesvos, which was orginally designed for 3,000 people, is hosting 10,400 people. An aid worker from the island comments
“This is a policy-driven crisis where the EU has sought to contain and externalise the problem [of migration] to the Greek isles. The EU-Turkey deal was supposed to be a ‘temporary and extraordinary measure’ to reduce flows and open safe legal alternatives to smugglers. Instead it has created camps where people are robbed of their dignity and forced to live in horrendous conditions.”
Hunger Strike of Political Refugee From Turkey:
Deniz Reşit Pınaroğlu, a political refugee from Turkey began a hunger strike in the beginning of September to protest the detention center he is being held in Torino, Italy.
“I have been held in a camp called CPR in Torino for the last month. I have been subjected to a series of unlawful practices and I am being held here unlawfully. The policemen of Piacenza who caught and brought me here told me that I was to stay here for 2 days. Without being provided a lawyer or a translator they have made me sign some documents in Italian and brought me here to this camp in Torino by lying to me.”
New York Times Reporter Carlotta Gall has gathered the accounts of Syrians in Gaziantep, following Erdogan’s announcements of his plan to open a safe zone and relocate a million refugees in Syria. It is reported that vans and buses of Syrian refugees are arriving almost hourly at the border crossing near the town of Kilis, and that the police are depositing unregistered refugees directly across the border. Syrians see the new policies as being aimed at making them leave. “They need to make us think it is better to go back to the safe zone,” says one of the interviewees.
Syrians in Istanbul are using tactics similar to those they learned back home to avoid being hunted and to stay in Turkey, Raja Abdulrahim writes for WSJ. For example she reports how one young woman prefers wearing the headscarf in Turkish style, and a photographer wears shorts above the knee on the few days he dares to leave his house. “Early during the uprising against the Syrian regime, activists created WhatsApp message groups to send out warnings about army checkpoints or security raids. Now they send similar alerts about patrols in Istanbul and neighborhoods to avoid, said Abdulqader Laheeb, a Syrian journalist in Istanbul.“
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.Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 20/08/2019
14th – 27th May
Turkey is called upon to open the border as the bombardments displaced Syrians from Idlib area | Two more refugee camps in the south-east will soon be emptied | Syrians cross into Syria during Ramadan holiday to check what they have left behind | Arbitrary ill-treatment against lawyers visiting Harmandalı Removal Center | How EU-Turkey deal created prison islands to deter asylum-seekers
Widespread bombardment does not spare the civillians in Idlib area, Turkey is asked to open the border for more than 200,000 displaced:Continue reading Harekact’s Weekly Digest 27/05/2019
30th April – 7th May
Several Push-backs from Greece around the Evros region |
Second pushback from Greek waters in the Aegean Sea within a month | Ten people die trying to reach Greek islands |
Worrying reports of deportations of vulnerable people from the Greece islands | Information about a hidden EASO report casting doubt on Turkey as a safe country translated |
Mare Liberum prevented from leaving Lesvos | Statement by the Izmir Bar Association on the recent deaths in the Aegean
Several Push-backs from Greece around the Evros region
Recent reports indicate a surge of push-backs at the Greek-Turkish border. Several reports have been published which describe violent push-backs of people from Greek soil following their crossing of the Greek-Turkish border via the Evros river.Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 08/05/19
25th – 30th April 2019
Harassment, sexual assault or violent threats towards LGBTI and women refugees across Turkey | Crossing to EU through Cyprus | Child abuse case sparks feelings of insecurity in multi-ethnic neighborhood | Syrian seasonal workers exploited between multinational companies and Turkish middlemen | On exile but with the spirit of “Arab spring” in Istanbul | Arbitrary procedure of detention on arrival to Lesvos
LGBTI refugees are calling on the UK Home Office to take immediate steps, as they continue to live in fear of homophobic violence in Turkey: Fifteen LGBT Syrian refugees are launching a legal challenge against the UK Home Office claiming they have been abandoned to a life of danger in Turkey, despite promises of being quickly brought to safety in the UK. Although they were accepted to a refugee resettlement scheme by the Home Office, they have been waiting for more than two years to be resettled, and are forced to live in hiding as a result. See more – 15.04.2019
Policeman’s Sentence for Sexually Assaulting an Uzbek Woman Reduced due to ‘Good Behavior’: For sexually assaulting a migrant woman from Uzbekistan in a police car in October 2018, the police officer Ş.Ş has been sentenced to 18 years, yet the sentence was reduced to 15 considering the “stance and behavior of the defendant in the hearings”. Four other officers were also under trial for the incident. The court acquitted one of them, and the other three have been sentenced to 7 months and 15 days in prison for “not reporting an offense” as public officers. See more – 26.04.2019Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 30/04/2019
17th – 24th April 2019
Mare Liberum to set sail again | Refoulement at Turkish-Greek border | Case against Greece at European Court of Human Rights | Threat of deportation from Bulgaria to Turkey
Mare Liberum ready to set sail again
In a blog post, the crew of the human rights monitoring project Mare Liberum look back at one year of presence in the Aegean Sea, between Turkey to Greece. The project was launched in early 2018 with the mission to “observe, document and draw public attention to the dangerous situation at the European border”. Although Greek authorities were eager to criminalize the project from the very beginning, the Mare Liberum crew managed to set sail in late August 2018. In its post, the crew offers an overview over its activities during the past year. Criticizing the negative effects of the EU-Turkey deal, they state:Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 24/04/2019
Police used tear gas to disband migrants waiting at immigration office/// On people trying to reach Greek islands/// Poor reception conditions trigger returns in the context of EU-Turkey deal/// An official NGO has been set up in Turkey with the name ‘Syrians to Syria’/// New editorial features launched by Syrian independent media
Police fire tear gas on migrants waiting in front of Denizli immigration office: In the southwest city of Denizli, police reportedly used tear gas to disband a crowd who were waiting for their ID processing, scheduled for Monday morning (4 March). Dozens of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan and Iran, had camped out on Sunday night in front of the Denizli migration management office to wait, and some were sleeping on the pavement when police intervened. See more here – 05/03/2019Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 12/03/2019
HIGHLIGHTS ON HAREKACT
In November 2018, HarekAct was invited to participate on Istanbul’s Açık Radyo (Open Radio) program called Hamişden Sesler (Voices from Hamisch), where our editorial board member Pelin had the chance to explain the motives and intentions of HarekAct (in Turkish). In December 2018, HarekAct closely followed the ongoing court case into the murder of Nigerian national Festus Okey, which was reopened after 11 years. Pelin Çakır wrote an extensive article for HarekAct about the murder, the legal pitfalls in the case and how the case was reopened following a long struggle by Festus‘ comrades and supporters who did not cease to demand justice for him. We also published a summary of media coverage of the case and a joint solidarity statement, released by a coalition of several groups of activists and human rights organizations.Continue reading HarekAct Newsletter VII – October 2018-February 2019
We introduce you to our new weekly news digest on migration, asylum and border issues primarily in Turkey as well as on the general European context as far as it is connected to Turkey.
Anti-Migrant Violence and Discrimination///Exploitation///Border Region///Broader Discourse///Numbers///Further Information
Anti-migrant violence and discrimination
- After mass attacks against the Syrian community in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul on the 9 February, reported here, the anti-Syrian attacks are continuing. Four masked individuals raided into the house of a Syrian family in Sultangazi, Istanbul. Among seven people living in the house, one was severely injured after being shot in the head.
- Seven Syrian families living in the Artuklu neighborhood of Mardin were threatened with letters posted at their doors, three of which also had a bullet placed next to them, Evrensel reports. The letters read: “Respectful landlord, if you don’t leave the house in 10 days, a bomb attack will be organized. This is your first warning, the second one will hurt someone. We don’t want you in this neighborhood.”