A Syrian refugee who didn’t want to be named for reasons of safety was made to travel in handcuffs for 17 hours to a refugee camp in Maraş province for living outside the province where he was registered, the Birgün daily reported.
The refugee said he was detained in the Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul on August 27. He was first taken to a repatriation center in Tuzla and later to a small stadium that he says was like a prison.
“I stayed there for two days,” he said. “It was very crowded, almost 1,000 people were there. … It was very hot and only some people had masks. For that many people, they only had one restroom. I had to wait for two and a half hours in line to go to the restroom.”
He was then transferred to the southeastern city of Maraş in handcuffs. “They gave breaks during the journey, but we were in handcuffs the entire time,” he said. “We didn’t do anything wrong, we didn’t harm anyone.”
According to Abdül Halim Yılmaz, an attorney specializing in refugee rights, the problems described by the Syrian refugee is all too common in Turkey.
“They take these people directly to the Immigration Administration in Tuzla if they have missing documents, let’s say a work permit, or if they are residing outside the city where they are registered,” Yılmaz said. “Then they take them to different cities.”
Traveling in handcuffs is something they hear about frequently, Yılmaz added. “We have a case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.”
The Syrian refugee said they were released in groups from the camp in Maraş the next day. The police told them not to go to İstanbul again and that if they ever did, they would be treated the same way.
“I was able to leave in the evening, getting all my belongings back,” he said. He later returned to İstanbul.
According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.
Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles, have been escalating in the country in recent years.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Konsensus Araştırma pollster, more than 90 percent of Turks are against accepting more refugees amid a new and growing wave of Afghan migrants arriving in the country.
According to another survey conducted by Metropoll, a total of 65.7 percent of Turks put the blame for a recently increased flow of refugees on the Turkish government’s policies.
In a bid to relieve public pressure the Turkish government seems intent on decreasing the number of refugees residing in the country’s largest cities. According to a statement by the Ministry of Interior on Thursday, Ankara “has been closed off for refuge registration as of September 2.” All Syrian refugees currently living in Ankara but not registered in the province will be sent to the provinces where they are registered.”
Anti-refugee protesters attacked houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in Ankara’s Altındağ district on August 11-12, following reports that a Syrian refugee stabbed two Turkish men in a fight.