A press conference about the earthquake disaster and the conditions of immigrants


Refugee Rights Platform:
“Let’s develop a style, language and attitude that will heal our wounds together”

The Refugee Rights Platform held a press conference about the earthquake disaster and the situation of immigrants.

Yıldız Önen moderated the meeting, which was held at the Omran Association in Istanbul, and the press release was read by Bekir Berat Özipek in Turkish and Taha Elgazi in Arabic. “Gülden Sönmez” shared her observations about the earthquake area. While the Syrian survivors talked about their suffering from the earthquake, Ola Katal and Osama Al-Khalidi.

The press release is as follows:

We had met on February 2 to oppose refoulement and to speak out about the poor conditions in deportation centres. Today, we are here to discuss the situation of refugees in the post-earthquake period, and the problems they face, as well as to offer proposals and solutions.

“We are together above and below the rubble. Let’s heal our wounds together

Days have passed since the great earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. More than 45,000 people were killed and injured, and millions of people were forced to leave their homes.

This time, the Syrians suffered a great catastrophe with the earthquake that hit Turkey, where they sought refuge from their country and far from the war. About a million Syrian refugees are believed to be living in the earthquake zone.

While the entire community was in a hurry to clear the rubble trying to help each other with solidarity, discriminatory and racist circles did not remain passive. The attacks on the Syrians began with provocations by exploiting the earthquake disaster. There are Syrians who have experienced violence while waiting for their families to be evacuated or trying to help.

Effective communication and legal action against these attacks are among the urgent measures to be taken in the post-earthquake period. The situation of the Syrians and how they will continue their lives is a big problem for us. Complaints are often made that those who reside in the earthquake zone do not receive adequate assistance, and we are going through a period when many conditions are imposed on those who go to other provinces to lead a normal life.

Some of the complaints we identified during this process are as follows:

1-Survivors’ fears that they could not be helped due to the reality of discrimination became tragically felt with an accident during the rescue effort. The words of a refugee when he was asked why he did not make a sound under the rubble, “We couldn’t make a sound even if they heard us speak Arabic, they wouldn’t save us” is in the minds of many of us.

2- Refugees waiting around the rubble and trying to dig by their own means were attacked as looters. An asylum seeker living in Hatay was reportedly subjected to soldiers’ violence because he sought help for his children under the rubble. With the presence of Ümit Özdağ and the Zafer Party in the region, there has been an increase in racist attacks. Özdag himself mistook one of the volunteers for a Syrian and accused him of theft. He did not apologize after that.

3- Many untrue information or accusations that we read have been circulated over and over in news form, such as Ugur Kardash’s statement that an Afghan cut off a deceased person’s arm for a gold bracelet in his hand and then said “I heard it” only when he was asked about the incident.

4-There was an attack on the Syrian AHID team, which carried out search and rescue work during the earthquake, and the volunteers around it, as some disaster and emergency management officials, who were expected to help the earthquake victims,but practiced abused and discriminated against refugees in some areas.also Syrian families were removed from Tents for the settlement of local earthquake victims in the Hatay Stadium, the incident has been reported.

5-The attacks were not limited to the earthquake zone. A Syrian was beaten up in the Antakya-Akevler AFAD disaster management warehouse by Antioch Akevler. The Syrian youth, Ahmet Çarruh 21, was killed in Aksaray.

6-There are difficulties in sending surviving refugees from the ruins to other provinces. In this context, the decision to lift the travel ban was delayed. Then the 60-day rule was introduced. It is hoped that their problems will be resolved in the cities they went during this time.

In the same period, there were also satisfactory and promising examples:

1- In Malatya, earthquake survivor Nevin Karacaya saved the life of 26-year-old refugee Eminel Halil with her baby in the womb . Eminell Khalil named her daughter after the nurse, Nevin, who saved their lives.
2-The Syrian Search and Rescue Team, which saved dozens of lives in Antakya, left its mark on the rescue efforts of the AHID Group.
3-A Turkish woman who was pulled out from under the rubble while she was injured said: “A Syrian child from the neighbours, and he removed the stones that were above me.”
4-The person who rescued TRT correspondent Hasan Momayaz from the rubble was a Syrian refugee.
5-Afghan refugees played an active role in sending relief materials to the earthquake zone.

We recommend that you follow these steps to resolve the issues:

1-Human rights violations against Syrians, who are among the oppressed groups during the earthquake, must be effectively combated, and the requirements of the Non-Discrimination Law must be implemented. Legal measures must be implemented against perpetrators of violence against Syrians and those who make them targets of violence with racist and discriminatory rhetoric.

2-Allegations of violations must be seriously investigated and those who prevented earthquake aid from being provided to Syrians or attacked or removed them from their tents, ensuring justice through an effective investigation. It should be noted that impunity does not solve the problem, on the contrary, injustice encourages crime.

3-All travel restrictions related to Istanbul and other provinces must be lifted, and the 60-day stay requirement must be defined as “until a safe environment is provided for them to return to.” There should be no discrimination among earthquake victims and the same support should be given to earthquake victims in all provinces.

4-Permission to travel to Syria between 3 and 6 months is sometimes reflected as “voluntary return.” Syrians who went to Syria to reach their relatives affected by the earthquake should not face any difficulties returning. Refugees under the rubble should be given time to identify themselves, and those who lost their lives should be buried in a manner that respects the requirements of funeral and burial culture.

5-The United Nations and other international organizations should increase their assistance as required by the scale of the disaster. Earthquake aids should be given according to the level of damage on both sides of the boundary.

We hope that this catastrophe that we are going through will give us every opportunity to rethink our position in the face of the world in which we live and basic human values. We invite everyone to develop an approach, language and attitude that will heal our wounds together, without forgetting that we are together above and below the rubble, without dividing the earthquake victims as Syrians and Turks, and without discriminating between people.

Sığınmacı Hakları Platformu, 22 Şubat 2023

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