Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey

Special Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey
Syrian refugees wait to board a bus in Istanbul as they head to the border villages in Edirne province. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 23 January 2022

Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey

Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey
  • ‘Hate speech’ by public figures from different political parties criticized by migration expert
  • Lack of international protection for refugees creates a precarious situation for them, migration expert tells Arab News

ANKARA: Amid alarming reports about assassinations of Syrian refugees in Turkey, the trend of violence and the security of foreigners has become a source of concern in the country, where refugees were once welcomed with open arms.
 
The country’s economic woes, with high rates of unemployment and decreased purchasing power due to inflation, have pushed many to blame foreigners.
 
The frequent use of anti-refugee rhetoric by politicians has fanned the flames of racism. A Turkish court recently overturned controversial plans by the mayor of the northwestern city of Bolu, Tanju Ozcan, to increase water bills by tenfold for foreigners, as well as charging 100,000 lira ($7,435) for civil marriage ceremonies for foreigners in Turkey.
 
“They overstayed their welcome. If I had the power, I would use municipal officials to throw them out by force,” Ozcan said. “I know people will talk about human rights and they will call me fascist. I simply do not care.”
 
Anti-immigrant sentiment has hardened, exacerbated by an influx of Afghans after the Taliban takeover of their country in August 2021.
 
Last week, Nail Al-Naif, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, was killed in Istanbul by a group of men when sleeping in his room. Eight people, including five Turkish nationals and three Afghans, were arrested.
 
Another young Syrian was stabbed walking in a park in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir last week, just a couple of days after a mob attacked a shopping mall frequented by Syrians in Istanbul, allegedly after a Syrian refugee refused to give a cigarette to a Turkish man.
 
In November, three young Syrian workers were burned to death in the western city of Izmir after a fire broke out at their apartment when they were sleeping.

Police detained a Turkish man, who admitted that he caused the fire motivated by xenophobia.
 
Muge Dalkiran, an expert on migration issues and a junior fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, said refugees have been scapegoated in Turkey due to ongoing competition over economic resources, concerns over ethnic or religious balances, and security-related worries.
 
“The tension has also escalated as a result of misinformation in the media, xenophobic discourses and hate speech by public figures from different political parties that represent large and diverse groups in the Turkish society,” she told Arab News.
 
Dalkiran said that negative attitudes, hate speech, and xenophobia against migrant and refugee groups exist in many countries, but in Turkey a major problem is impunity.
 
“Due to the lack of (a) clear legal definition of xenophobia and racial discrimination, as well as the lack of the enforcement of law, this leads to the impunity for crimes motivated by racist and xenophobic attitudes.

“In addition to this, the lack of international protection of refugees also creates a precarious situation for them,” she said.
 
As Turkey has put a geographical limitation on the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it cannot grant its main refugee groups, like Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, refugee status.
 
“Many times, because of the fear of detention or deportation, migrant and refugee groups in Turkey cannot even access official complaint mechanisms when they face violent acts,” Dalkiran said.
 
The number of Syrian refugees under temporary protection in Turkey is 3.7 million people, most of them living in Istanbul as well as the southeastern province of Gaziantep.
 
Over 2.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey are under the age of 30. Overall, the country is home to about 5.3 million foreigners in total.
 
Metin Corabatir, president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration in Ankara, said there are many examples of xenophobia that go unreported.
 
“Syrian refugees in Ankara cannot send their children to school for fear that they could be subject to physical violence or hate speech” he told Arab News.

“They cannot guarantee their own security and children pay it back with their declining enrolment rates,” he added.
 
In August 2021, tensions rose in Ankara’s Altindag district, where the Syrian population is concentrated in the capital.

After a knife fight between locals and Syrians, several workplaces and houses of Syrians were targeted.
 
“(Turkish) house owners in Altindag district reportedly began to decline to rent their houses to Syrians,” Corabatir said.

“The municipality abruptly stopped the coal and food assistance to the Syrians in the city without giving any excuse. Opposition politicians began pledging to send Syrians back to their home country,” he added.

“As the date of parliamentary elections is nearing, refugees and foreigners in general have been used for domestic consumption,” said Corabatir.
 
Advocacy groups also underline the alarming trend of hate speech in the country against foreigners more generally. Recently, a taxi driver in Istanbul beat a French woman after he overcharged her and her husband.
 
“We cannot send these refugees back to Syria, which is still unsafe,” Corabatir said. “Several international right groups, like Amnesty International, announced that those who returned home were subjected to torture, disappearance and detention.”
 
In January, a video was posted on social media of a Turkish man in Istanbul breaking the doors and windows of a house he owned because, after he raised the rent of his Syrian tenants by 150 percent and they refused to pay, he wanted to evict them.
 
Dalkiran emphasized the need for adopting a coherent and integrated approach by political parties and their leaders, the media, academia and civil society for the refugee-related issues.
 
“Rather than populist discourses to secure the electoral gains, a human rights-based approach should be prioritized,” she said.

“This needs to be accompanied by social awareness raising efforts to combat against racism and xenophobia together with the migrant and refugee rights.”


Groups in Spain and Morocco push for border deaths inquiry

Groups in Spain and Morocco push for border deaths inquiry
Updated 7 sec ago

Groups in Spain and Morocco push for border deaths inquiry

Groups in Spain and Morocco push for border deaths inquiry
MADRID: Human rights organizations in Spain and Morocco have called on both countries to investigate the deaths of at least 18 Africans and injuries suffered by dozens more who attempted to scale the border fence that surrounds Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa.
Moroccan authorities said the casualties occurred when a “stampede” of people tried to climb the iron fence that separates Melilla and Morocco. In a statement released Friday, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said 76 civilians were injured along with 140 Moroccan security officers.
Local authorities cited by Morocco’s official MAP news agency said the death toll increased to 18 after several migrants died in the hospital. The Moroccan Human Rights Association reported 27 dead, but the figure could not immediately be confirmed.
The association also shared videos on social media that appeared to show dozens of migrants lying on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, as Moroccan security forces stood over them.
“They were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths,” the human rights group said on Twitter. It called for a “comprehensive” investigation.
In another of the association’s videos, a Moroccan security officer appeared to use a baton to strike a person lying on the ground.
In a statement released late Friday, Amnesty International expressed its “deep concern” over the events at the border.
“Although the migrants may have acted violently in their attempt to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, not everything goes,” Esteban Beltrán, the director of Amnesty International Spain, said. “The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected and situations like that seen cannot happen again.”
APDHA, a human rights group based in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, and a joint statement released by five rights organizations in Morocco also called for inquiries.
A spokesperson for the Spanish government’s office in Melilla said that around 2,000 people had attempted to make it across the border fence but were stopped by Spanish Civil Guard Police and Moroccan forces on either side of the border fence. A total 133 migrants made it across the border.

Iranian girl, 4, dies after being left in car under summer sun

Iranian girl, 4, dies after being left in car under summer sun
Updated 43 min 58 sec ago

Iranian girl, 4, dies after being left in car under summer sun

Iranian girl, 4, dies after being left in car under summer sun
  • Parents forgot the girl due to ‘stress’ about the funeral they were attending

LONDON: A 4-year-old Iranian girl has died after her parents left her in their car for hours while they attended a funeral service, local government officials reported.

The child, whose forename Sadia has been released, traveled with her family to Ramhormoz, a city in the east of the country, as temperatures hit 49 degrees Celsius.

Her parents allegedly left her in the car for the entire service because she fell asleep on the way to the funeral.

Local media reported that they forgot about her because they were “stressed” about the funeral.

Dr. Gholamreza Haidarnejad, from the city’s forensics department, said Sadia died from heat stroke and suffocation, which was complicated by stress. A police investigation has been launched.


EU’s Borrell says Iran nuclear talks to resume in coming days

EU’s Borrell says Iran nuclear talks to resume in coming days
Updated 37 min 54 sec ago

EU’s Borrell says Iran nuclear talks to resume in coming days

EU’s Borrell says Iran nuclear talks to resume in coming days
  • France urged Tehran to take advantage of Borrell’s visit to restore the pact while it remained possible

DUBAI: Talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal will resume in the coming days, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Saturday during a visit to Tehran.
“We will resume the talks on the JCPOA in the coming days,” Borrell told a news conference in the Iranian capital, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

Borrell met Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday, Iranian state TV reported, as the bloc seeks to break an impasse between Tehran and Washington over reinstating a nuclear pact.
The United States said earlier in June it was awaiting a constructive response from Iran on reviving the 2015 deal — under which Iran restricted its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions — without “extraneous” issues.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian last week called on Washington, which exited the deal and then imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran during the Trump administration in 2018, to “be realistic.”
It appeared on the brink of revival in March when the EU, which is coordinating negotiations, invited ministers to Vienna to seal it after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden’s administration.
But the talks have since been bogged down, chiefly over Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its elite security force, from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
Two officials, one Iranian and one European, told Reuters ahead of Borrell’s trip that “two issues including one on sanctions remained to be resolved,” comments that Iran’s foreign ministry has neither denied nor confirmed.
France, a party to the deal, on Friday urged Tehran to take advantage of Borrell’s visit to restore the pact while it remained possible.


Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in West Bank: Palestinian sources

Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in West Bank: Palestinian sources
Updated 25 June 2022

Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in West Bank: Palestinian sources

Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in West Bank: Palestinian sources
  • Mohammad Hamad, 16, was shot and wounded near the village of Silwad

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager died from his wounds hours after being shot by Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian sources said Saturday.
Mohammad Hamad, 16, was shot and wounded on Friday evening near the village of Silwad, near Ramallah in the northern West Bank, and died hours later, a Silwad councillor told AFP. The Israeli military did not immediately comment.
The teenager was near a road leading to the neighboring settlement of Ofra when he was wounded by Israeli soldiers, the councillor said.
His death comes amid a spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Nineteen people, mostly Israeli civilians — including 18 inside Israel and a Jewish settler — have been killed in attacks by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs since late March.
Israeli security forces have responded with raids inside Israel and in the West Bank in which three Israeli Arab attackers and at least 46 Palestinians have been killed.
Among those killed were suspected militants but also non-combatants, including an Al Jazeera journalist who was covering a raid in Jenin.


Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more

Residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, lining up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. (AP)
Residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, lining up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. (AP)
Updated 25 June 2022

Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more

Residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, lining up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. (AP)
  • UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948

UNITED NATIONS: Donors pledged about $160 million for the UN agency helping Palestinian refugees, but it still needs over $100 million to support education for more than half a million children and provide primary health care for close to 2 million people and emergency cash assistance to the poorest refugees, the agency’s chief said Friday.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of Thursday’s donor conference, Philippe Lazzarini said the pledges when turned into cash will enable the UN Relief and Works Agency known as UNRWA to run its operations through September. But “I do not know if we will get the necessary cash to allow us to pay the salaries after the month of September,” he said.
“We are in an early warning mode,” Lazzarini said. “Right now, I’m drawing the attention that we are in a danger zone and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point that means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers, cannot be paid.”
UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.
There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, who mostly live in camps that have been transformed into built-up but often impoverished residential areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But UNRWA only helps the more than 500,000 in school and close to 2 million who have health benefits.
Lazzarini said the more than $100 million shortfall in funding for 2022 is about the same as the shortfall that UNRWA has faced every year for almost a decade, but while income has stagnated costs have increased.
In past years, UNRWA has been able to absorb the shortfall through austerity and cost control measures, he said, but today it’s not possible because there is very little left to cut without cutting services.
“Today, we have some classrooms with up to 50 kids,” the UNRWA commissioner-general said. “We have a double shift in our schools. We have doctors who cannot spend more than three minutes in medical consultation. So if we go beyond that, it will force the agency to cut services.”
Lazzarini said UNRWA’s problem is that “we are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region, but we are funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions.”
Funding the agency’s services has been put at risk today because of the “de-prioritization, or maybe increased indifference, or because of domestic politics,” he said.
Lazzarini said the solution to UNRWA’s chronic financial problem requires “political will” to match the support for the agency’s work on behalf of Palestinian refugees.
He said UNRWA has a very strong donor base in Europe and last year the Biden administration resumed funding which was cut by the Trump administration, but he said the overall contribution from the Arab world has dropped to less than 3 percent of the agency’s income.
Donors have also faced financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there’s a major effort to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, he said.
“We will know better at the end of the year how much it will impact the agency,” Lazzarini said.
Some donors have already warned UNRWA “that we might not have the traditional top-up at the end of the year, which would be dramatic” for the agency, he said.
Ahead of Thursday’s donors conference, Israel’s UN Ambassador Erdan Calls on countries to freeze contributions until all UNRWA teachers that it claims support terrorism and murdering Jews are fired.
Lazzarini said UNRWA received a letter from Israel’s UN Mission Friday which he hadn’t read, but he said all allegations will be investigated and if there is a breach of UN values and misconduct “we will take measures in line with UN policies.”