Mehdi Davud, chairman of the Syrian Associations Platform (Suriyeli Dernekler Platformu), in an interview said thousands of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq had been illegally deported from Turkey.
Speaking to the Independent Turkish service, Davud said in the last few days nearly 200,000 migrants had been deported. Despite many of them not being Syrian, they were all deported to Syria’s Idlib province.
Hiyali Gül, 22, a migrant from Afghanistan, was deported on February 22 with four other migrants after being detained by the police. He was sent to Idlib despite his Afghan nationality and is currently trying to survive with the help of concerned individuals.
According to Davud, migrants were deported for minor offenses such as being involved in a traffic accident, failing to update their address and telephone information with the Directorate General of Migration and Management (DGMM), forgetting their identity card at home or even for arguing with their neighbors.
“The DGMM just informs migrants their Turkish residency card is cancelled with a telephone message,” said Davud. “Even migrants who had acquired citizenship were sent a message saying they were no longer permitted to reside in Turkey. Thousands effectively became undocumented migrants overnight,” he said.
Davud pointed out that authorities deliberately aim to make migrants uncomfortable to make them leave the country of their own accord. “This is a big problem that prevents any kind of integration,” he said.
Davud added that many migrants have filed complaints against the DGMM and won their case but said most were too afraid to confront authorities.
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.
The Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun earlier this year said the government’s refugee policy focused on the “voluntary and safe” return of refugees to their homelands. Altun informed that more than 500,000 Syrians had already returned to their country as a result of Turkey’s efforts to create secure and livable settlements in northern Syria.
However, critics say it is not certain that all refugees returned on a voluntary basis or if they were forcibly returned.