Reports of human rights groups on Turkey’s ‘forced’ voluntary return practices and ‘unsafe’ safe-zone not welcomed by Turkish officials | EU mobilises millions of Euros to Turkey for increasing migration control | Still, and once again, Erdoğan threatens the EU with refugees | Increasing crossings also on the Greek-Turkish land border | Bulgaria’s response to irregular crossings at Bulgarian-Turkish border
Reports ofHuman Rights Groups on Turkey’s ‘Forced’ Voluntary Peturn Practices and ‘Unsafe’ Safe-Zone not Welcomed by Turkish Officials
The Turkish state’s attempt to remove Syrian refugees to so-called safe-zone in Northern Syria have been proven to be unrighteous by several reports released in the past weeks, as the deadline given to unregistered Syrians to leave Istanbul, 30 October, approached.
Human Rights Watch’s report details the hostile and unlawful treatment involved in the arbitrary deports and detentions of Syrians in Istanbul and Antakya between January and September 2019. The report underlines that a significant number of Syrians are being deported against their will to one of the most dangerous areas in Syria, Idlib, where at least 1,089 civilians have been killed since April. HRW invites Turkey’s Interior Ministry to ensure that Turkish authorities do not use violence against Syrians or other detained foreign nationals and to hold any officials using violence to account. – 24.10.2019
Amnesty International’s report also accuses Turkish authorities of forcibly deporting hundreds of Syrian refugees back to war-torn areas in the north of Syria, by using threats, force and deception. The report includes testimonies of refugees who were beaten into signing ‘voluntary return’ documents, and others who signed in order to receive blankets from detention centres. “Returns until now have been anything but safe and voluntary – and now millions more refugees from Syria are at risk” says Anne Shea from AI. – 25.10.2019
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 ofIll-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.
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.“
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are currently living under siege in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul. Using the term “siege” is no exaggeration here – many don’t dare step out of their homes to secure their basic needs. They cannot go to work, and they can’t even leave their homes in order to try and correct their legal situation, according to the demands of the Turkish government. Even in their homes, tens of thousands of Syrians don’t feel safe. It is reported that Turkish police patrols have entered homes in Istanbul and Gaziantep, arresting anyone without a Temporary Protection ID, and even those who have Temporary Protection IDs but registered in different provinces.
The fear overwhelming Syrians in Turkey today is compounded and multi-layered. Just as resources are distributed unequally in this world, the level of fear amongst Syrians varies with their legal and economic situation. Nevertheless, all are scared, and their fear is a complex tale that could seem hard to explain.
Update concerning inhumane and unlawful deportations of Syrians | Condemn of deportations across broad range of civil society actors| Anti migrant discourse fueled by many politicians | Tense atmosphere in Istanbul | Turkey suspends readmission agreement with EU | Horrifying conditions at Harmandalı Removal Center | Report of 25 refugees who froze to death at the Turkish-Iranian border
Update concerning inhumane and unlawful deportations of Syrians
in the previous weeks about mass deportations of Syrians, several journalists and Institutions have published
further details about the (ongoing) inhumane and unlawful deportations of
Syrians living in Turkey. Rights groups in Istanbul claim that within one week between 600 and 1500
Syrians were wrongfully returned from Istanbul to Syria. It is reported,
through discussions on social media and by people with contacts in the
communities, that other migrant groups, particularly those who are living and
working undocumented in Istanbul are also being targeted.
Condemn of deportations across broad range of
civil society actors
Several Human rights organizations have harshly criticized the deportations in public statements.
Mass Deportation Campaign in Istanbul Against Syrians: #StopDeportationsToSyria | Stories and reactions shared on social media about deportations | Latest statements from the authorities on the issue | Asylum seeker woman tortured in Harmandalı Removal Center | 17 Migrants killed in bus crash in Eastern Turkey | Rising Anti-Arab Hate Also Hits Palestinians in Turkey | Syrian Woman builds her own catering business with WhatsApp
Mass Deportation Campaign in Istanbul Against Syrians:#StopDeportationsToSyria
Since around ten days, Turkish authorities have increased stop-and-search checks around Istanbul, targeting Syrians without registration papers (including those who are registered in other cities) or for working informally. It is alleged that many have been detained and eventually deported to Syria, some after having been forced to sign “voluntary repatriation” forms. The campaign is yet another wave of fear being inflicted on Syrians in Istanbul, following statements from key Turkish politicians about imposing stricter policies and controls on Syrians, and the rising anti-Syrian discourse, which we have covering in the past weeks.
Seven drown in migrant boat sinking off coast of Lesvos | Five migrant workers die due to fire outbreak in textile factory | Turkey deports asylum-seeker whose life is feared to be in danger | Beach ban on Syrians during Ramadan break | Allegations against another NGO working with migrants and refugees in Turkey | Critical Perspectives on EU-Turkey Deal and the myths around it
Seven drown in migrant boat sinking off coast of Lesvos : Ekathimerini reported last Tuesday on migrants drowning while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesvos from Turkey’s shores. The boat was reportedly carrying more than 60 people when it sank. – 11.06.2019
Five migrant workers die due to fire outbreak in textile factory: The fire took place in Akpınar Textile’s factory in Çayırova district of Kocaeli, leaving 5 dead, 3 of whom were Syrian, and 1 Afghan. Health and Safety Labour Watch Turkey (ISIG) reported that many of the factories had migrant workers to work particularly during the 10-day Ramadan break, when workers with Turkish origin are officially on leave. Migrant workers also had to stay in the factory during that period. – 11.06.2019
Closure of Camps at the Syrian Border | Anti-Syrian Sentiments | Tuberculosis Outbreak in a Camp near the Iranian-Armenian Border | Turkey grants residence permits to members of Turkic communities | Story on the Harmandalı Removal Center around Izmir | On Turkishness in Germany | EU published annual report on Turkey
News & Reports
of Camps at the Syrian Border
Throughout our most recent news digests we have been reporting on the ongoing closure of refugee camps on the Turkish border with Syria. Al-Monitor has provided the latest numbers in an article on why Turkey is closing down the camps: Several camps in Gaziantep, Adiyaman and Kilis have already been closed, while Turkey’s largest camp, located in Suruç, is supposed to close on June 23. Around 30,000 Syrian refugees have left the camp so far since April. Of the total 21 camps, which hosted approximately 300,000 Syrians, only 13 camps are left open, accommodating around 120,000 refugees at the moment.
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:
Detentions of irregular migrants in Turkey | Situations in the Aegean Sea | Push-Backs from Greece | Working conditions in Turkey | New wall at Turkish-Syrian border | Afghan entrepreneurs in Esenyurt, Istanbul
Numbers & Media Coverage of Detentions of Irregular
Migrants in Turkey
Birgün has reported on the figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of numbers of migrants in Turkey. According to the reports, in the first four months of 2019 (January until April) the numbers of migrants crossing to the Greek islands decreased by 17.6 percent compared to the previous year. Further, a total of 79,002 migrants – among which were 32,942 Afghans, 11,691 Pakistanis and 6,432 Syrians – were arrested during the same period. The internal ministry reports that the number of detentions decreased by 2.44 percent, while the number of deportation increased by 34 percent compared to the same period in 2018. The Turkish Interior Ministry recorded a total of 268,000 arrests of irregular migrants in 2018.
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 – 26.04.2019