Turkish authorities have been detaining refugees who were pushed back from Greece in a rundown building under dismal conditions in western Izmir province, the Duvar news website reported.
Izmir has become a popular place from which refugees depart for Greece; however, many have been pushed back to Turkey in recent years. Those refugees who managed to get back to Turkey safely have been detained in a building belonging to the Izmir Municipality, where they’ve been kept up to 15 days.
After this period, the detainees are transferred to a repatriation center from where they are returned to their home countries.
The number of detainees has reportedly reached into the hundreds, and they are made to live in cramped quarters. Most of the refugees are women and children who can barely find sufficient food. The municipality provides them with sandwiches, but they don’t receive warm food or anything more nutritious.
The refugees call out to people who pass by the building, asking them for food for their children.
Speaking to Duvar reporters, one guard at the door said they do not want the detainees to get too comfortable. “Sometimes we have up to 350 detainees,” he said. “We give them a blanket and food. We try not to give them more than necessary because then they will get too comfortable and will never leave the country.”
The guard also implied they beat the detainees from time to time to make them uncomfortable.
The residents of the neighborhood said they, too, had noticed the inhumane conditions in which refugees were made to live. They said the toilets frequently overflowed, and the building was unsuitable for winter conditions.
“When the weather gets cold I think about the children in that building. How are they to endure these conditions?” asked one restaurant owner in the vicinity. “You simply cannot keep people in these conditions in the middle of the city.”
People who wanted to help the refugees by providing them with food and extra blankets were prevented from doing so by the police. A neighborhood resident said they were witnessing a “tragedy” and demanded that authorities find an immediate solution.
Lawyer Gizem Metindağ said there were at least 25 minors who were being held without adult supervision. She said it was completely against regulations for minors to be kept in the same quarters as adults.
“These people are just kept there, without access to lawyers, and they can’t appeal repatriation decisions,” she said. “Moreover, authorities have to decide on their repatriation in the first 48 hours of their detention according to the constitution. But what we see is that they are being held for up to two weeks. This is a complete violation of refugee rights.”
According to a report published by the Swiss-based Global Detention Project, international observers have repeatedly criticized conditions in Turkish repatriation facilities. Observers have highlighted overcrowding and a lack of medical care and access to lawyers and civil society groups and that minors were held with adults.
The report also said if refugees protested certain regulations and practices in the centers, they were often mistreated and beaten by security officers.
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.”