Migrants have faced neglect, abuse and inhumane living conditions in Turkish repatriation centres, according to legal experts and human rights activists, the Duvar news site reported.
Human rights abuses have become common in repatriation centres; however, most cases are covered up and not made public. Unable to bear the dismal conditions, some migrants protested, while others committed suicide. The worst complaints came from the repatriation centers in Kayseri and İzmir Harmandalı.
According to lawyer Ayşe Kaymak from the Izmir Bar, the repatriation centers are overcrowded, which is the root of the problem. “The center of Izmir is particularly overcrowded because it is connected to Europe by sea, and there are more migrants concentrated in this city,” she said. “Furthermore, migrants can be detained for the slightest offence. A group of Syrians have been arrested for sharing a satirical video on social media a few months ago. »
Syrian refugees were eating bananas in the video in a bid to condemn racism and discrimination in Turkey. The video was released in protest following a street interview in which a Turk says Syrians in Turkey are ‘buying kilos of bananas’ when he can’t even afford them. to eat. Forty-five refugees were detained in the aftermath and sent to repatriation centers to be deported.
Kaymak said that instead of detaining migrants who commit offences, authorities should register their addresses and require a weekly signature at a police station. This should be particularly the case for minor, disabled or elderly migrants. However, almost all undocumented migrants who have been arrested by the police are sent to repatriation centres, which allows them to accommodate twice their capacity.
“In such cases, there are not enough toilets, food, water or beds to accommodate so many migrants in the centers,” Kaymak said.
The inhumane conditions led some migrants to stage protests, which resulted in disciplinary action and mistreatment by security guards.
Earlier this year, migrants were forced to sleep in a gymnasium because there were not enough regular rooms. However, there were only two toilets for hundreds of detainees, and one was clogged. The migrants, who could not shower or use the toilet, demanded to know how long they would be held at the center and to see an official who could give them answers.
This resulted in a clash between the security guards and the migrants, and some of the migrants involved were immediately deported, while others were sent to different repatriation centres.
“Migrants do not have access to lawyers or human rights organizations, so they cannot claim their rights in such cases,” Kaymak said.
Kaymak explained that as lawyers, they were sometimes helpless when they received complaints from the repatriation centers because the centers did not cooperate with them. She added that in many cases they could not get proper information and were not allowed to speak with complainants.
“Migrants who don’t speak Turkish aren’t even aware of the decisions made about them, which makes it difficult for them to oppose it,” Kaymak said. “Access to a lawyer is their fundamental right, but they are prevented from doing so.”
According to Kaymak, anti-migrant sentiment is at the heart of these issues. She urged the authorities to stop using migrants as scapegoats for the country’s economic and social problems.
Anti-immigrant sentiment is approaching boiling point, fueled by Turkey’s economic woes. With unemployment high and the price of food and housing soaring, many Turks have turned their frustration on the country’s estimated 5 million foreign residents, especially the 3.7 million who fled the civil war. in Syria.
Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, which are responsible for many of Turkey’s social and economic problems, have also increased in the country in recent years.
Turkish media, including pro-government and opposition media, fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who have fled their country and sought refuge in Turkey.