Afghan asylum-seeker unlawfully detained in Turkish repatriation center

An Afghan man identified as Samir said in an interview he was detained in a Turkish repatriation center for a month despite being a registered asylum-seeker.

Speaking to the Duvar news website, Samir said while he was visiting Istanbul in January, a police officer asked to see his identity card. Although Samir was registered in a different city, he had a permit from the immigration authorities to visit Istanbul. On the document it stated where Samir would travel, how many days he would spend there and where he would stay during the visit.

According to regulations asylum-seekers need to obtain a permit from the immigration authorities in their registered city to visit other provinces in Turkey.

Samir gave his identity card and travel permit to the police officer who took him to a police station. “There were many undocumented migrants in my hotel’s neighborhood, but I had nothing to fear since my documents were in order,” he said. “I was very calm at the police station because I thought they would just check my documents and let me go.”

However, Samir claimed the police officer at the station tore up his permit, confiscated his telephone and identity card and took him — along with 20 other Afghans — to Istanbul’s Tuzla repatriation center.

“I lost any sense of time while I was at the center, but I think we stayed there for two weeks and were later transferred to a different center,” he said. “The rooms were very cramped as there were nearly 20 people in a three-person room. The place was freezing and infested with bugs.”

Samir said he was shocked many registered migrants were also kept at the center. He said he was in constant fear that he would be deported. In the meantime he was fired from his job for a lengthy absence. “My employers thought I was sent back to Afghanistan,” he explained. “I was released a month later with no explanation, but I had lost my job and my money.”

Samir said after this incident he wanted to flee to Europe.

Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, 3.7 million from Syria granted temporary protection status, and over 400,000 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries

However, after the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021, Turkish politicians and members of the public have expressed reluctance to accept more asylum seekers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an earlier statement said Turkey could no longer afford to welcome any more Afghan refugees.

According to a survey conducted by Metropoll, 54.4 percent of Turks are against opening the border to Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and think a possible open-door policy would have a negative effect on their support for the Turkish government.

In an interview with the Stockholm Center for Freedom, Member of the European Parliament Tineke Strik saidthat Turkey cannot be considered a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers. “The biggest problem concerning Turkey is that it is not bound by the refugee convention when it comes to non-European refugees.”

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