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Refugees in Turkey’s Aegean region suffered 2,980 rights violations in Q1: report

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Refugees living in the Aegean region of Turkey suffered 2,980 rights violations in the first four months of 2021, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing a study by the Human Rights Association’s (İHD) İzmir branch.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Meral Kaban, a member of the İHD İzmir branch refugee commission, said refugees constantly experience inhumane treatment. They also have difficulty accessing education and health services. According to Kaban, the rising wave of nationalism in Turkey and around the world had contributed to the increase in the violation of rights of refugees.

The report is based on complaints received by İHD and news reports.

“Most of the refugees enter Turkey illegally,” Kaban said. “Therefore they are seen as a cheap source of labor and work only for subsistence [wages].” The pandemic has only made things worse for the refugees, she added.

According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (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.

Kaban compared repatriation centers to concentration camps and said refugees live a “prison life” there and suffer from poor conditions and malnutrition. They face maltreatment and have difficulty accessing legal assistance.

According to the most recent report published by the Swiss-based NGO Global Detention Project, international observers have repeatedly criticized conditions in Turkish repatriation facilities. Observers have highlighted overcrowding and a lack of medical care and access to lawyers and civil society groups and that minors were held with adults.

The report also said if refugees opposed certain regulations and practices at the centers, they were often mistreated and beaten by security officers.

“Turkey does not have a proper refugee law, and this especially affects Afghans who are faced with arbitrary practices,” Kaban said. “Afghans are treated differently from other refugees. They are the ‘others’ of the ‘others’.”

The solution lies in opening the repatriation centers to outside control by independent institutions, according to Kaban. Permanent solutions must be found to the problems of refugees, she says. Changing legal regulations that cause rights violations and preventing the abuse of children and women must be the priority areas.

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