Turkey to expel Syrians living illegally in Istanbul

Syrian shopkeeper Ahmed is pictured at his shop in Istanbul's Kucukcekmece district, Turkey, July 5, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 22 July 2019

Turkey to expel Syrians living illegally in Istanbul

  • Turkey has 3.5 million Syrian refugees but they are only under “temporary protection” because the government does not offer them formal refugee status

ISTANBUL: Syrians living illegally in Istanbul have until August 20 to leave the city or face expulsion, authorities warned Monday, as hostility mounts toward the millions of refugees in Turkey.
Turkey has 3.5 million Syrian refugees — more than any other country — but they are only under “temporary protection” because the government does not offer them formal refugee status.
Under the system, they must stay in the province to which they are assigned, and can only visit other cities with short-term passes.
In a statement published in Turkish and Arabic, the Istanbul governor’s office said it would no longer tolerate Syrians who are assigned to other provinces.
“Foreigners of Syrian nationality who are not registered under the system of temporary protection or who do not have a residency permit will be expelled to their designated provinces by the Ministry of the Interior,” it said.
Those without any registration papers at all would be sent back to Syria, it added.
But Mahdi Daoud, who heads a coalition of Syrian NGOs in Istanbul, said more than 600 people were already sent back to Syria last week — even though most had protection cards issued for other Turkish provinces.
“They were forced to sign documents saying they returned voluntarily to Syria,” he told AFP.
He said his coalition, the Forum for Syrian Associations, had complained to the Turkish authorities and there had not been any new cases since Saturday.
Security forces have stepped up identity checks in recent days in Istanbul — at metro and railway stations and in areas with large numbers of Syrians.
There are currently 547,000 Syrians living in the city, according to the governor’s office, which said no new registrations were being accepted for refugees.
Daoud said nearly 26,000 Syrians live in Istanbul without a protection card. He was not sure how many had cards from other provinces.
A survey published this month by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed growing hostility toward Syrian refugees in the city, rising from 54.5 percent of respondents in 2017 to 67.7 percent in 2019.
#SyriansOut became part of the discourse during municipal elections this year — with many complaining about the number of Arabic signs appearing on shops in Istanbul and elsewhere.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.