Protest in Istanbul against refugees’ deportation

On August 2, “We Want to Live Together” Initiative organized a demonstration in Kadıköy (Istanbul) to protest deportation of refugees, particularly Syrians. Political parties, NGOs, feminists and activists from different sectors joined the demonstration to demand an immediate end to deportation practices and to call for the government to recognize refugee’s right to asylum and work.

Below is the full press statement by the Initiative.

For the past few weeks, identity checks, home and workplace raids, detention and forced deportation operations have been carried out in various neighborhoods of Istanbul. On top of the similar ongoing practices in Turkey, lately, many Syrians living in Turkey under the system of “temporary protection” have been forced or tricked into signing “voluntary return” documents, resulting in their detention and deportation, throughout which they have been exposed to grave illtreatment. Recently, the Istanbul Governor’s Office announced that any Syrians in the city who were registered in another city have been given time to leave Istanbul by 20 August. At the same time, we have witnessed the spread of openly racist and xenophobic hate speech, especially on social media.

Although Turkey has been a country of migration for many years, its policy towards migration has not been committed to creating permanent and supportive structures based on human rights, instead being security-centered, characterized by arbitrary and political decisions, and degrading migrants into numbers that are deemed to be kept under control. The current registration and asylum system blocks migrants’ access to any long-term status, either turning them irregular or condemning them to uncertainty with a “temporary” status. The “guest” discourse adopted by the government for Syrians constitutes a major obstacle in the way of seeking rights. We believe that migrants should be under the protection of the law, not at the mercy of politicians.

Control-oriented practices such as return to registration city, travel ban, and “satellite city” mean migrants are deprived of their most basic rights, such as housing, work and education. People who were forced to displacement are displaced once again and pushed into living spaces where they will be more disadvantaged and insecure in economic and social terms, and where racism and discrimination are more dominant. This policy leads to the division of families and the disintegration of networks in which migrants support each other.

These most recent deportation policies stand in direct violation of international human rights conventions, and particularly the principle of “non-refoulement”, which Turkey is legally bound to adhere to. The majority of those being deported from Turkey are being sent to places where their lives are at risk because of ongoing war or owing to their political activities or allegiances, sect, gender or ethnic identities. Owing to conditions of conflict, economic conditions or individual threats, returning people jeopardizes their right to a secure life. We defend everyone’s freedom of movement!

The implementation of the Turkish government’s policy is a part of the security-oriented policies towards migrants prevailing all over the world. We underline the responsibility of the EU for the precarious position of migrants in Turkey. The EU’s policy towards migrants has been to close the border and effectively make Turkey its border guard. With the EU-Turkey agreement, Turkey became an enforcer of the EU’s murderous border politics, wherein at every stage migrants are used as a bargaining chip. In this framework, only the most “acceptable” of migrants are given freedom of movement, while the rest are systematically and massively returned, held in camps with inhuman conditions or pushed to more dangerous routes. In this process, the militarization of the borders is gradually increasing. Secure travel routes for everyone should be opened immediately! Open the borders!

Migrants are also the target of racist and xenophobic rhetoric and attacks. In their public statements, both the government and the opposition parties have tried to scapegoat migrants for the currently existing structural problems and economic crisis in Turkey. People who are displaced, subjected to precariousness and heavy exploitation are be responsible for the economic crisis! Immigrants must be granted unconditional work permits! Structural arrangements should be implemented to prevent the exploitation of migrants’ labor and bodies. In line with this demand, we urge all labor organizations, especially trade unions, to act in solidarity!

While migrants are criminalized and declared ‘clandestine’ and ‘illegal’, a further share of abuse is directed at those who stand with migrants against this discrimination and racism. Solidarity actions with migrants and people and organizations providing humanitarian support are also targeted. Solidarity cannot be criminalized! Despite this discriminatory and hostile context, we will not turn against one another; but instead we will stand firmly together against racism and violations of human rights! Beyond national and ethnic identities, we will grow a transnational solidarity beyond borders!

No matter what political tendency or media it comes from, we expose and reject any discourse and attitude that sets the stage for racism! We say, not in our name! We call on all political parties, institutions and rights organizations to make declarations that they recognize the basic rights of migrants and refugees and vow to struggle against racism.

All oppressive practices that imprison migrants, discriminate and restrict the freedom of movement, life and work must be terminated immediately. Nobody migrates without a reason! Deportations should be stopped immediately and policies aimed at the seizure of asylum should cease. “Stop deportations!” “We want to live together!” We who stand behind these demands invite Turkey and the international community to help strengthen solidarity with migrants!

#StopDeportations #WeWanttoLiveTogether

Birlikte Yaşamak İstiyoruz İnisiyatifi (We Want to Live Together Initiative)

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