Turkish gov’t converts repatriation centers into ‘immigrant prisons’

Turkey’s General Directorate of Immigration is planning to strengthen the security of the repatriation centers located in İzmir, Kırklareli, Kayseri, Antep, Erzurum and Van provinces, which have frequently come to agenda with the rights violations, according to a report by online news outlet Gazete Karınca.

It was reported that the General Directorate held a tender on November 6, 2017 to make “high security fence’ for the repatriation centers and they are being turned into high-security prisons by the General Directorate of Immigration. Many questions and investigation motions were submitted at the Parliament and the rights violations were entered in the reports of human rights organizations since the year the first repatriation center was established in Turkey,

Harmandalı Repatriation Center in İzmir province.

The General Directorate, which aims to knit higher fences around the centers, reportedly plans to wear razor wires to the fences to be made to the repatriation centers. The fences to be knitted around the buildings are expected to be cage-type, while the height of the fences from the ground will vary from 3 to 5,5 meters. It is also planned to knit razor wire on the masts at a height of 1 meter. In addition to the masts and wires that will be worn around the centers, the lighting poles with arrows and razor wire ties are also among the project planned.

With the project to be implemented as a result of the tender, it is seen that the centers will have higher walls than the prisons after the completion of the project and completely isolated from the society at the same time. The refugees who are under investigation and to be kept in these centers will thus be cut off from the society and the practices in the centers will be completely concealed. While it is known that the applications of human rights organizations for monitoring the centers are often rejected, it is probable that the centers will increase their notoriety.

According to official figures, there are 20 repatriation centers operated by the General Directorate of Immigration in Turkey and the total capacity of these centers is 8,226 people. However, there is no clear data about the number of people held there, especially the refugees are being held with the ‘administrative observation purpose’ in the centers.

It is known that the refugees held in the centers live under even the minimum living standards, and that the proceedings regarding them continue for months and sometimes years, while the fact that they face for the duration of their stay is not fully known by the public.

After the rise of help cries of the refugees held in Harmandalı Repatriation Center in İzmir, it was remained on the agenda for a long time in Turkey but the General Directorate of Immigration had define the facility as ‘5 star hotel.’

Regarding the centers, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Bedia Özgökçe Ertan has stated that “Legislation regulates how to keep people under temporary supervision. Accordingly, it is expected that these people should have access to regular health care and be monitored in accordance with human dignity. However, it is believed that the administration do not comply with national and international obligations, as seen recently in the cases of Kumkapı and Harmandalı repatriation centers.”

Stating that there is also an impact of being used asylum seekers as a policy material, Ertan has said “International organisations also report that there are numerous cases of torture and ill-treatment and the refugees under detention were not allowed to meet their families.” Ertan added that despite the duration was temporary detention lasts for months in the repatriation centers.

Kumkapı Repatriation Center is another facility where there is frequent violations and came up with protests. So that Turkey’s Constitutional Court decided in 2015 that the center was not incompatible with human dignity.

According to the news report by Bianet’s Ayça Söylemez on June 27, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Turkey guilty due to torture and ill-treatment, the violation of  the right to liberty and security and effective referral ‘violation’ for the detention of a Chechen citizen, Zalim Yarashonen, who was in Kumkapı Repatriation Center for approximately six months.

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