Syrian Refugees and Immigrants Face Intensified Shadow Campaign from Turkish Authorities

Syrian Refugees and Immigrants Face Intensified Shadow Campaign from Turkish Authorities

Syrian refugees and immigrants claimed that Turkish police officers were exploiting them. Following the May presidential election, authorities have been administering exaggerated document checks.

Trimming the Number of Syrian Refugees and Migrants

Turkey initiated a silent campaign to cut the number of Syrian refugees and immigrants within its borders. The increase came following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victorious re-election campaign in May. However, it runs ahead of crucial municipal elections to be held in 2024.

Migration in Turkey has become a primary issue in the past years. Currently, the country accommodates at least 3.6 million Syrians after the war started in their home country. Other migrants including Africans, South Asians, and elsewhere in the Middle East are drawn to Turkey. They are enticed by the high standard of living, and accessibility to the European Nation, considered the greatest destination for most people.

Erdogan wanted to minimise the prevalence of migrants and refugees after the 2019 local elections. It was during this time that opposition parties called upon growing anti-immigrant notions in the region. The displeasure against new arrivals has heightened during a worsening economic situation amid skyrocketing costs and inflation.

One of the many noticeable demonstrations of the newly-implemented anti-immigration policies is the recurrence of police spot checks. Turkish police stop suspected individuals who illegally stay in the country and check the legality of their residency documents.

“After Erdogan promised to send at least one million Syrians back, the interior ministry instructed the police to increase regular checks of relevant documents. A simple mistake, such as the absence of a residency card, can lead to the detention and eventually deportation of a Syrian,” said a source who refused to provide a name.

In May, Erdogan declared to send a million Syrians back to the country’s north. It’s a “safe zone” that the Turkish army and its allies have established.

Voluntary Repatriation or Deportation

Voluntary return was the primary intention of the Turkish government to cut the number of Syrian refugees and other migrants. However, they can face deportation due to technical violations of residency permits.

Syrians must work and live in the city where they registered. Likewise, they must acquire permission to set forth to another city despite a short stay.

Some of these refugees and migrants work in bigger cities like Bursa, Kayseri, or Istanbul. However, most of them work without the necessary authorisation or registration. This is why police organised checkpoints in particular areas, especially where refugees will possibly work.

In July, at least 950 Syrians faced deportation based on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) data. Between 2016 and 2022, 539,332 returned to their country voluntarily. However, refugees with the correct papers are not being spared from inspection. One Syrian factory worker revealed that they undergo police control at least twice a week and experience mistreatment.

Plans to Repatriate a Million Syrian Refugees

In the coming year, Turkey will repatriate a million Syrian refugees. Lebanon, on the other hand, started to deport some of them. Even if over half of these refugees in the Middle East want to return to Syria one day, just 1% plan to return in the next year.

International law forbids repatriating refugees against their will. At the same time, persuading Syrian refugees to return voluntarily is a prolonged scheme that might not tangle with normalising the Assad government.

Middle Eastern leaders are stabilising terms with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They anticipate sending Syrian refugees back to their home country. However, it’s too early to start extraditing the 5.5 million Syrians who fled and escape the war there.

Most refugees wouldn’t want to return because of the ongoing war regardless of headlines and normalisation campaigns. Russians send nonstop airstrikes and other forces continue bombarding the country’s northern half.

Some Islamic State members stayed in Syria and five foreign armies remain active in the region. It includes multiple other forces and mercenary groups. If Syrian refugees return to their home country, what kind of future awaits them, especially the children?

Image Credit: Mstyslav Chernov/WikimediaCommons

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