Turkey introduces new restrictions on refugees

Turkey introduces new restrictions on refugees
The number of refugees deported by Turkey rose by 70 percent this year. According to the latest figures, about 30,000 irregular migrants were deported. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Turkey introduces new restrictions on refugees

Turkey introduces new restrictions on refugees
  • Ankara bans homeland visits for Syrians during Eid, brings in neighborhood quotas for foreigners

ANKARA: As signs of social discontent rise, Ankara has taken new measures to restrict the movement of Syrians within the country’s territories, banning them from visiting their homeland during the approaching Eid Al-Adha holiday.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced the new precautions on migration control during a press conference in the capital Ankara on Saturday.

The percentage of foreigners who are allowed to live in each neighborhood will be reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent, starting from July 1, closing 1,200 districts to settlement.

Metin Corabatir, president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration in Ankara, said that Syrians preferred living in districts near to industrial zones where they worked, mostly illegally on lower wages to make ends meet.

“If authorities bring quotas on their settlement, it will both violate human rights and impact the industrial hubs where they are currently working as a critical workforce,” he told Arab News.

Turkey hosts more than 4 million refugees, 3.7 million of whom are Syrian.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced the new precautions on migration control during a press conference in the capital Ankara on Saturday.
  • The percentage of foreigners who are allowed to live in each neighborhood will be reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent, starting from July 1, closing 1,200 districts to settlement.

Begum Basdas, researcher at the Center for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School in Berlin, thinks that none of these measures can be recognized as migration management.

“The new restrictions brought by the authorities continue to be ad-hoc reactions to mislead the public that they are in control of the situation,” she told Arab News.

“If the government and the oppositional parties wish the Syrians to return to Syria some day, they should promote cross-border relations instead of banning them. Half of the Syrians in Turkey are young people, many of them being born in Turkey. They have no real connection or memory of Syria as they have grown up in Turkey,” Basdas said.

“If the authorities would be sincere in ‘voluntary returns’ they would ensure routes for people to visit their homes and return to their lives in Turkey until Syria is safe to return to. The majority of Syrians in Turkey repeatedly say that they have nowhere to return to, and the ban further limits that possibility.”

With rising economic problems in the country and elections on the horizon, incidents of violence against Syrian refugees are escalating. A 70-year-old Syrian woman was recently kicked in the face by a Turkish man over a local rumor that a refugee kidnapped a child.

The refugees mostly maintain a low profile in public to avoid trouble, after increasingly becoming the scapegoat of the country’s heated domestic politics.

Although governments have the exclusive right to manage irregular migration, Corabatir said that there are increasing reports of new asylum-seekers facing problems in being registered by Turkish authorities, which prevents them from sending their children to school or using health services.

“They are trying to remain invisible. Decreasing the quotas in some neighborhoods will only relocate the integration problems from one district to another if refugees are treated like merchandise. It looks like a forced migration within the country,” he said.

Some far-right politicians have also capitalized on the resentment with inflammatory anti-refugee rhetoric for political gain ahead of approaching elections, as some Turks blame Syrians for stealing their jobs and increasing rental prices.

The number of refugees deported by Turkey rose by 70 percent this year. According to the latest figures, about 30,000 irregular migrants were deported. The government, however, opts for a softer approach on refugees, preparing the ground for the voluntary return of 1 million Syrians.

So far, as many as 503,150 Syrians in Turkey have returned voluntarily to areas that have been secured in their country. Turkey has been building houses in Syria’s Idlib province — the number has reached 59,000 — with the aim of creating the conditions for return.

Friedrich Puttmann, a researcher at the Istanbul Policy Center, thinks that there is nothing wrong with distributing refugees across different localities as such.

“In fact, it lets you tailor the respective burden on social services to the capabilities of local authorities and may facilitate social and economic integration. In Germany, for example, there’s an official scheme by the government which distributes asylum seekers upon their first arrival across the country according to every region’s population size and tax revenue,” he told Arab News.

“In Turkey, in contrast, Syrian refugees have moved to areas where they already knew someone or where they could find job opportunities and affordable housing. This has led to clustering and indeed often upset local Turkish citizens who felt left alone by the state,” Puttmann said.

However, he also agrees that to simply undo this development after 10 years of refugees living in Turkey by forcing people to leave their homes, jobs and social environments is not advisable, neither morally nor in practice.

“You tell people to leave, but you don’t give them an alternative of where to go instead. Since many Syrian refugees live in decaying buildings that Turks no longer want to inhabit, Syrians might not be able to afford housing anywhere else unless they receive additional support from the state. Syrians would have to leave their current workplaces and look for new jobs in new localities, which would negatively affect Syrians’ living conditions as well as the respective local economies and, as a result, increase rather than decrease social tensions with Turkish citizens.”

Puttmann also underlines that under these new measures, refugees would lose important social connections with local Turkish citizens that they may have built over time, especially for children at school who have been at the forefront of integration.

“Finally, it would fully ignore the rights of the refugees themselves. In a nutshell, the social problem Soylu is trying to address here is real; however, his proposed solutions are likely to hamper rather than fuel social integration and would violate refugees’ rights,” he said.

Basdas thinks that these latest measures create a false sense of migration management to ease public tensions and to intimidate refugees and migrants to better exploit their vulnerabilities.

“But they also must know that many people forcefully returned to their home countries return to Turkey through irregular routes and without access to registration they further deepen exploitations of the informal economy,” she said.

Under the new measures, taxi drivers have permission to ask clients for their official documents when they travel across different cities. There has been a public outcry recently with the release of videos of illegal migrants jumping from the trucks and mingling with local people in different cities.

“The authority given to taxi drivers to act as security forces to check documents is unacceptable. While we wish for freedom of mobility, the authorities cannot transfer the right to ensure ‘security’ to ordinary citizens. This would potentially have devastating results not only for refugees but also for all citizens of Turkey,” Basdas said.

The ban on visiting family in Syria over Eid has also been criticized by experts.

“The fact that Syrians may be able to safely go there for a few days does not imply that they would also be able to safely live there, which most of them still can’t due to the Assad regime. Instead of travel bans and demographic engineering, it would therefore be wiser to think about practically feasible policies that foster Syrians’ integration in the places where they are now by strengthening social ties with Turkish citizens and creating jobs for all,” Puttmann said.


Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 
Updated 10 sec ago

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 
  • His comments came after holding a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Jordan and Palestine Aziz Al-Dihani

 KUWAIT: The Palestinian cause is “alive and well in the hearts of the leaders, government and people of Kuwait,” the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) cited Palestine’s Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs Sheikh Hatem Al-Bakri as saying. 
 
His comments came after holding a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Jordan and Palestine Aziz Al-Dihani on Tuesday. 
 
“The State of Kuwait is keen on supporting the Palestinian political leadership in their quest to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the minister said. 
 
The meeting reviewed matters related to the Awqaf ministry and service sectors, with a focus on the support from Kuwaiti charitable organizations to the Palestinian people, KUNA reported. 
 
Ambassador Al-Dihani said Kuwait strongly believes in the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights to independence and maintains its support of Palestine on the regional and international scale. 


Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties
Updated 44 min 23 sec ago

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties
  • Various challenges that threaten the stability and security of countries in the region were discussed in the meeting

DUBAI: Jordan’s King discussed regional and international issues with Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs on Tuesday during a meeting in Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman. 
King Abdullah II discussed with Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani ways to further enhance cooperation between the two nations, according to state news agency BNA. 
Al Zayani, who was on an official visit to Jordan, also met with Ayman Safadi, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Jordan. 
The pair spoke about developments, and the various challenges that threaten the stability and security of countries in the region. 
Bahrain’s foreign minister said a number of regional issues were discussed such as the Palestine, the war in Yemen, the Iranian nuclear file, the war in Ukraine, global food security and the energy crisis.’
With a focus on the Palestinian issue, Al Zayani called for an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 
The two ministers agreed that a ‘comprehensive and just settlement that preserves the rights of the Palestinian people’ must be reached in order to begin the peace process. 
They also praised efforts made by Egypt to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, and the ‘necessity of its extension’ to benefit both Palestinians and Israelis. 
Al Zayani and Safadi agreed that a two-state solution was the way forward. 
“There is no other solution to this conflict,” said Safadi. “If the two-state solution is not achieved, we are going towards a one-state situation, which would perpetuate apartheid; this would not lead to peace."
When discussing Syria, Jordan’s foreign minister stressed the need to ‘activate pan-Arab action to solve the Syrian crisis’ that will help the country abolish terrorism. 


Safadi added that Jordan and Bahrain would continue to reiterate their support for Iraq, its security and stability. 
He added that both nations also welcomed the Yemen ceasefire, which he hoped would lead to a comprehensive political solution that will help end hostilities in Yemen and uphold security in GCC member states.


Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
Updated 17 August 2022

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
  • Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II

BERLIN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed no regret Tuesday for the deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics a half century ago, countering that Israel had committed “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.
Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on Sept. 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’ Fatah party.
Asked whether as Palestinian leader he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack ahead of the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas responded instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas told reporters after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed.”
Standing next to Scholz, Abbas explicitly used the word “Holocausts” in his reply, drawing a grimace from the German chancellor. Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.
While Scholz had earlier rejected the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid,” he did not immediately rebuke Abbas for using the term “Holocaust.”
In a statement to German daily Bild, Scholz later criticized Abbas’s choice of words, saying any downplaying of the horrors of the Holocaust was “unacceptable.”
Conservative German lawmaker Armin Laschet likewise expressed outrage at Abbas’ comments.
“The (Palestinian) leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972,” he wrote on Twitter. “Accusing Israel of ‘50 Holocausts’ instead is the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery,” he said.
In his response, the Palestinian president also said he was committed to building trust and achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.
“Please come to peace,” he said. “Please come to security, let’s build trust between us and you. This is better than other kinds of talking.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Abbas’ remarks about “50 Holocausts,” made on German soil, were “not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.”
“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children,” Lapid tweeted. “History will never forgive him.”
Weeks before a planned somber commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack, Germany has also found itself embroiled in controversy in its dealings with the relatives of the Israelis who were killed.
Victims’ families announced last week that they planned to boycott the ceremony after failing to reach agreement on bigger compensation from the German government.
Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and botching a rescue operation in which five of the attackers also died.

 


Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
  • Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa

TUNIS: Tunisia said Tuesday it had foiled several attempts by almost 100 migrants to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea since the previous day.

Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. Sea crossing attempts tend to increase during spring and summer.

Tunisia’s National Guard said it had prevented five maritime crossings and rescued 80 people, mostly Tunisians and including 35 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

It said “preventive operations” were also carried out near Menzel Temime in the north, Mahdia and Kerkennah on the central coast and Zarzis in the south, leading to 11 arrests.

The National Guard said it had seized “a sum of money” without specifying the amount, and an inflatable boat in these operations.

On Monday, maritime and military authorities said 657 people were rescued or prevented from trying to cross in 46 separate incidents between Friday and Monday.

The Defense Ministry said that 42 Egyptians who had set sail from Libya were rescued Sunday off Kerkennah, after their boat sank and they took refuge on an oil platform.

Tunisia is in the throes of political and economic crises, and Libya has been gripped by lawlessness since 2011 that has seen militias turn to people trafficking.

The two countries are also the gateway for sub-Saharan Africans hoping for a better life by escaping impoverished and strife-torn countries such as Sudan.

The EU’s Frontex border agency says the central Mediterranean route was used by more than 42,500 migrants between January and July, up 44 percent compared with the first seven months of 2021.


25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
Updated 17 August 2022

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
  • Turkish attacks target Assad forces and Kurdish fighters in border town

JEDDAH: At least 25 people were killed in northern Syria on Tuesday after Turkey launched airstrikes and an artillery bombardment targeting Assad regime forces and Kurdish fighters near the border town of Kobane.

The Turkish shelling began overnight, when artillery salvoes hit the town and around its edges. It continued throughout the day, and at least one child was killed.
Kurdish YPG militia fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.
After the mortar attack, Turkish forces conducted retaliatory fire against targets in the Kobane area. “According to initial information in the region, 13 terrorists were neutralized. Operations in the region are continuing,” the Defense Ministry in Ankara said.

FASTFACT

Kurdish YPG militia fighters responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.

Dilvin, a shopkeeper in Kobane, said chaos broke out in the town when the shelling intensified on Tuesday. “People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she said.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home.”
Later on Tuesday, 11 people died in Turkish airstrikes on a Syria border post run by Assad regime forces. It was not clear if the dead were Syrian government troops or Kurdish fighters.
Syrian regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by the SDF near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem cross-border offensives by Ankara targeting Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
Turkey has launched a series of attacks since 2016 targeting Kurdish forces and Daesh, but they have rarely resulted in the deaths of Syrian regime fighters.
If regime forces are confirmed to be among those killed on Tuesday, the attack would be one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020 following a Syrian regime strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since July, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to obtain a green light from regional allies Iran and Russia for a fresh offensive into northern Syria.
Turkey has been hostile to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and backed rebels calling for his removal. But last week Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enraged the Syrian opposition by calling for reconciliation between the regime and the rebels.