Mistreatment of migrants increases in runup to Turkey’s local elections 

A US Border Patrol agent (L) leads migrants who crossed into the US from Mexico to a van for transportation in El Paso, Texas, on December 21, 2022. (Photo by Allison Dinner / AFP)

As the local elections in Turkey approach, human rights advocates have said authorities have increased pressure on migrants, with reports emerging of mistreatment in repatriation centers, the Gazete Duvar news website reported

Local elections are scheduled for March 31, and many political parties have expressed anti-migrant sentiments at their rallies. According to Kaya Kartal, the chair of human rights group Mazlumder, such rhetoric has led to an increase in the mistreatment of migrants. 

Kartal explained that the approaching elections have created a political atmosphere that has fueled negative sentiments towards migrants. Many opposition parties have put migrants in the center of their rallies, urging the government to adopt anti-migrant practices. 

“Migrants have been experiencing serious problems lately,” he said. “Our organization has been receiving an increasing number of complaints from migrants. Even those who are registered migrants in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara have been unlawfully detained and sent to border cities to be deported.”

In one case, an Iraqi migrant registered in Ankara was detained and sent to eastern Malatya province to be deported. He was later released on the condition that he check in with immigration authorities five times a week. However, this meant he would be separated from his family, which was still living in Ankara. Furthermore, it also meant he would have to live in Malatya, which is still grappling with the devastation of the February 6, 2023 earthquakes. 

“A migrant who has a business, a family, a life in Ankara has been stripped of all of this and was sent to a disaster-stricken city,” said Kartal. “These incidents are arbitrary practices. Sometimes we don’t even know where the migrant is being held. When we ask migration authorities about their whereabouts, they have no idea and can’t give us any information.”

Kartal added that many migrants were kept in repatriation centers where they were “persuaded” to voluntarily leave Turkey, while others were forced to sign voluntary repatriation documents.

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, according to MEP Tineke Strik, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers because it is not bound by the refugee convention when it comes to non-European refugees.

Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills, have been escalating in the country in recent years.

Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.

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