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.“
Erdoğan plays the refugee card once again towards EU to push for his safe-zone goal | Migrant children are not registered in schools in Istanbul | Refugees on hold in Van Bus station | Uighurs in Turkey increasingly live in fear of deportation despite the ‘brotherhood’ accorded to them so far | The Political Economy of Discrimination in Turkey | Turkey’s politics towards Syrians from left to right: From the perspective of a Syrian Turkmen | Report on the racism and discrimination towards LGBTI+ Refugees
Erdoğan plays the refugee card once again towards EU to push for his safe-zone goal
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened European countries with opening the borders if the long-awaited safe zone in northern Syria is not established. “Give us logistical support and we can go build housing at 30km (20 miles) depth in northern Syria. This way, we can provide them with humane living conditions” Erdoğan said, adding: “Either you will provide support, or excuse us, but we are not going to carry this weight alone. We have not been able to get help from the international community, namely the European Union.”Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 09/09/2019
5th – 12th August
Update on the Deportation of Syrians | Anti-Syrian Discrimination | Turkey’s plans in North Syria
News & Reports
Update on the Deportation of Syrians
The solidarity initiative ‘We want to Live Together’ (Birlikte Yaşamak Istiyoruz Inisiyatifi) have released a comprehensive report, entitled “Two Weeks of Deportations” which details a few accounts of the deportations, forced signing of voluntary return documents and ill-treatment of Syrians at the hands of Turkish armed forces which the Governorate and Provincial Migration Management Authorities continue to deny. The Turkish version of the report can be found here, and an English version is forthcoming. A summary of the report includes –Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 13/08/2019
29th July – 4th August
Update on the Deportation of Syrians & News from the Resistance and Support Movement | Numbers on ‘Irregular Migration’ | Syrian shot by Turkish border guards | Petition for Syrian in Greek prison for alleged human smuggling | Crackdown on critical media websites and social media accounts
News & Reports
Update on the Deportation of Syrians & News from the Resistance and Support Movement
Despite reports on the mass deportations of Syrian nationals from Turkey to the Idlib region in Syria making international news, the EU has still not reacted to the human rights violations. The German government, confronted with the accusations being made against Turkey by the leftist party ‘Die Linke’, said that they are aware of the ‘alleged returns of Syrian nationals’, but that the Turkish government denies the reports and the UNHCR have also not verified the accounts. The several reports by Syrians who have been deported (here and here) as well as a report by Human Rights Watch were apparently not enough evidence for the German government to, at the very least, voice their concerns towards the Turkish government.Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 08/08/2019
22nd – 28th July
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
Following reports 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.Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 31/07/2019
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.Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 22/07/2019
2nd-8th of July
Governorship of Istanbul aim to limit Arabic Signs | Interior Minister Vows Increased Control over Syrians and Irregular Migrants | Spotlight on Anti-Syrian discourse in Istanbul and Turkey | Public Perception on Refugees based on Political Affiliation | Why does the Istanbul Convention Matter for Refugee Women and Girls?
Governorship of Istanbul aim to limit Arabic Signs:
Turkish authorities inspected 730 places of business with Arabic shop signs in Istanbul’s three districts between 15 June and 1 July. The governor’s office stated that the inspections will continue to include all of Istanbul’s 39 districts, and they’re aiming to ensure that signs have 75 percent of their content in Turkish and 25 percent in other languages within a short period of time ( see more in Turkish, in English) – 03.07.2019
24th June – 1st July
Anti-Syrian Racism post Istanbul Municipality election re-run | Unknown numbers of refugee children missing | The changing nature of the Syria-Turkey border |
News & Reports
Anti-Syrian Racism post Istanbul Municipality election re-run
The anti-Syrian discourse which was prevalent during the municipality elections, and legitimated by the language which political authorities used has intensified in the aftermath of the results. CHP mayors in several Turkish municipalities publicly used anti-Syrian rhetoric during their campaign bids. The mayor of the town of Kemalpasa in western Turkey, Ridvan Karakayli, said on TV, “We will get rid of Syrians. There is peace in Syria, so what are they doing here? There are shops with signboards with the Syrian language [a reference to Arabic] near our party [building]. I will remove them. They will be taken away from here.”Continue reading HAREKACT’S WEEKLY DIGEST 01/07/2019
10th – 16th June
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. – 11.06.2019Continue reading HarekAct’s Weekly Digest 17/06/2019