Hamdi Bayhan and Immigration Lawyer Mahmut Kaçan from the İHD Van Branch, where we talked about the problems and violations of rights experienced by immigrants in Turkey, especially in Van, emphasize that universal declaration conditions should be applied for the living conditions of immigrants.
During the election period in Turkey, the pressure on all immigrants, especially Syrian immigrants, increased. Citizens, who stated that Turkey was used as a refugee warehouse and were disturbed by this, campaigned on the sending of immigrants to their own countries during the election period. While anti-immigrant opposition was increasing rapidly, the problems faced by immigrants were ignored.
In Van, one of the mandatory routes of immigrants, crossings continue at the border. Immigrants, especially Van, start to have problems from the first city they enter the country. With the economic crisis, immigrants who are below the hunger line have difficulty in living. However, while there are very few immigrants accepted to the third country, the rest are living on a knife-edge with the threat of being sent back to their countries.
Immigrants, who face various problems from their departure to their home country to their life in Turkey, are placed at the center of many policies by the state, and they do not have full protection.
Hamdi Bayhan, from the Human Rights Branch (İHD) Van Branch, states that immigrants are exposed to many violations in Van, as they are in all parts of Turkey, and lists them as follows: There are situations such as living in bad conditions. They stay in houses where no one lives, paying rent, and are often exposed to insults. Refugee women and children can be sexually abused. From time to time, it is reflected in the press and the public.”
Immigrants living on the poverty line
Stating that the biggest problem after these violations was the inability of immigrants to convey this, Bayhan said, “They think that they cannot cope with these problems and therefore they do not speak up. They do not want to face new problems. They are in serious financial trouble. In fact, it is stated that refugees live in prosperity all over the country. It is said that a significant part of the country’s budget is transferred to them. However, most of these are just perceptions. Perhaps a large part of the money transferred from the European Union for refugees but does not reach the refugees. Like everywhere else in the country, they are trying to live below the poverty line .”
Stating that immigrants have serious problems in terms of access to health, Bayhan says that they can make an appointment with the screen they open from the immigration administration and the screen turns off before they can get an appointment due to the appointment problem experienced throughout the country. Therefore, they cannot be treated, and those who already have the opportunity to receive treatment cannot express themselves.
Stating that the difficulties that child immigrants experience with their peers due to their ignorance of the language cause various traumas, Bayhan also finds the language developed by politicians on immigrants dangerous. Bayhan said, “The language developed by political parties, the language developed by both the opposition and the government is a dangerous language for immigrants. It is a language that imposes discrimination and creates a social lynching against immigrants. While there is a growing anger against immigrants in many parts of the country, immigrants do not face serious problems in the region, especially in Van. Compared to the West of Turkey, we cannot say that immigrants face serious problems in Van.”
Emphasizing that universal declaration conditions should be applied for the living conditions of immigrants, Bayhan said, “First of all, immigrants should be considered as human beings and their rights arising from universal law should be recognized. It should be ensured that they live in the same conditions as the citizens of the country they are in. The fact that immigrants cross the borders is actually something related to the current policy of the government. It does not allow passages from time to time. Allows occasional passages. So the transitions continue. The transitions, of course, are intermittent. “The country continues to receive immigrants at full speed.”
Problems experienced in third country applications
Immigration Lawyer Mahmut Kaçan stated that the policies regarding resettlement to a third country were stopped and said, “Even if Afghans receive conditional refugee status in Turkey, that policy regarding resettlement to a third country has been stopped since 2013. Relocation to a third country is carried out only if there are sensitive and special needs. Even if an Afghan receives refugee status, they are not resettled in another country. They have to stay in Turkey. Türkiye is the final destination for Afghans. This is true not only for Afghans, but also for Iranians. This is an actual situation. From time to time, countries may open their quotas for Iranians or have different applications. But for years, those who have already received conditional refugee status in Turkey, resettlement procedures are not carried out in a third country. Very few people have done it. Therefore, Turkey is a destination for refugees from these countries. But of course those who come don’t know that. There is an expectation that they will go to a third country as soon as they get a status. Despite that expectation, these people do not attempt to establish an orderly life, since there is no integration policy in Turkey and Turkey still maintains its geographical reservation in the United Nations Convention. There are always cases of being in limbo, as if we will go tomorrow.”
Mandatory route: Van
Stating that the situation is slightly better in Van compared to the rest of Turkey, but there have been some changes with the election process, Kaçan said, “Since Van has been the first point of contact for asylum seekers in Turkey for many years, there has been no hate speech against immigrants from the local people. There was no inclination to react up to physical attack against them, or to see them as the source of problems. But it is not possible that this policy carried out in Turkey, whether during the election period or the last year or two, will not be reflected in Van. As people hear negative discourses about refugees from social media and current mainstream media channels, they gradually begin to think negatively, even if there is no phenomenon that touches their lives in concrete terms.”
Expressing that there are some paradoxes between Van and immigration, Kaçan said, “Van is also a city that produces refugees. Many young people from Van are also trying to go to Europe and seek asylum. There is such a paradox. While he sees refugees as a negative object in his own home, after a while he may become the subject of the same processes. But at least in Van, even though there is such a negativeness at the level of discourse or on the basis of thought, I do not think that this will evolve to a different point in daily life. Because most of the people who come do not stay in Van anyway. If you are unemployed in Van, you are still unemployed. You are not unemployed because a refugee is employed. The refugee population registered and living here is also very small, when compared to the population.”
The effects of border security
Stating that the ongoing security works and pushbacks on the Van-Iran border line are reflected on the immigrant population in the city, Kaçan says that the violations against immigrants are not reflected in us, and that the reason for this is that they are unregistered. “There is no mechanism by which asylum seekers and migrants on the move can complain about violations as they are unregistered or unable to access the asylum system. Let’s say a woman is sexually abused while coming. He can not find a legal basis for what she has been exposed to, and there may be cultural, educational background or other reasons that prevent her from revealing this embarrassing situation in her own way. As long as the access to the asylum system is not transparent and accessible, these human rights violations are not visible and the vast majority of them somehow stay where they happened and are forgotten.”
The deplorable state of the deportation center of Van
Kaçan also gave information about the conditions of the deportation center in Van and said, “There is a deportation center in Van. When the police or gendarme catch them, they have to deliver them there within 48 hours. From the moment they are handed over there, a deportation decision is taken against them. An administrative detention decision is also taken to keep them there. Because the detention process there is aimed at deporting these people, the conditions there are worse than those currently in which a person in prison lives. You are a film director from Iran, you are a writer, there is no book to read, no newspaper, no television to watch. They’re not even vented. Hygiene conditions are bad, food quality is bad,” he says.
At the same time, Kaçan stated that the situation changed in legal terms after refugues went to the deportation center and said, “The duration of a refugee’s stay there is not certain. If they cannot access the court, a lawyer for the annulment of the deportation decision, and cannot access a legal mechanism regarding the asylum request, the administrative detention decision is initially taken for a period of 6 months. It is communicated when the decision is made. If they does not file a lawsuit within 7 days, that decision becomes final. As far as we know, they are deporting as soon as possible. People are put on planes and deported to Afghanistan, for example.”
‘A manipulative discourse that Pakistanis are increasing’
Kaçan also clarifies the information circulating on social media regarding the mobility at the border and the large number of Pakistanis entering the country: “At the moment, we do not observe any movement at the border, nothing reflects on us. There are border crossings with the warming of the weather, but we need to have a number to compare with last year or previous years. We do not have such a number. Pakistanis are a profile that has been using Turkey as a transit for many years and trying to go to Europe, especially England. More for economic reasons. I have not yet to see any Pakistani who want to come to Turkey and seek asylum. If you count, the number of Pakistani asylum seekers does not exceed 10. I think the rhetoric that Pakistanis are increasing is manipulative.”
Translator : Akif Coşkun