“We Want to Live Together” Initiative published their “Two Weeks of Deportations” report on the unregistered immigrants’ deportations. “We Want to Live Together” Initiative spokesperson Eyüp Özer stated that registered immigrants are also being deported, as well. According to the report, the most common practice is to force immigrants to sign Voluntary Return Certificate.

“We Want to Live Together” Initiative announced the publication of their “Two Weeks of Deportations” report on the unregistered immigrants’ deportations with a press conference at Istanbul branch of Human Rights Association (HRA). Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul Deputy Ahmet Şık and Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu and many other people joined the press conference where “Stop Deportations!” banners were opened.
The first to speak at the conference was HRA İstanbul Branch President Gülseren Yoleri, who stated that there had been many applications to them after İstanbul Governorship’s statement with regards to the immigrants. She said, “According to the official registrations, there are 5 million foreign people. There are more than 3,6 million of registered Syrians after 2011. However, there are more unregistered Syrians. Because of this, the issue in front of us is a huge one.”


Initiative spokesperson Özer stated that registered immigrants are also deported as well. He said, “Pregnant women, children are kept at removal centres for no reason. They do not have lawyers or anyone they can turn to. We have determined that people with temporary identity cards are deported. A Syrian immigrant named Hişam was shot at the border while he was trying to go back to his family back in Istanbul. There are many similar stories like this one. We will not share the names. We are sharing Hişam because he was killed.”


Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul Deputy Ahmet Şık stated that the majority parties in the Parliament have very clear opinions on Syrian refugees. He also added that the language used against the immigrants is racist and fascist. Şık also said that the people needed to ask themselves “Why are the Syrian refugees here?” and continued “As long as they answer this question, everyone in Turkey will realize they owe to Syrians.” Şık noted that some comments fuel the xenophobia and added “This must end. Syrians have rights to live as human beings. We need to abandon the idea that there has been an increase in malignancy in Turkey after the Syrians came. People act as if the cause of hooliganism, assaults, rape, poverty and the economic crisis is Syrians. We need to lay off with fascism.”


Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu wished for the initiative to last and said they would support their activities. Tanrıkulu said, “Refuge and asylum seeking are the hardest situations in the world. Fascism exists through xenophobia all around the world. The Parliament sees Syrians as a political cost. Syrians should not be approached with a political cost or hate speech. Unfortunately the situation we are in now only fuels this issue. This fascist behavior that causes massive human tragedies must be abandoned.”


The report is shared with the press after the speeches done by the participants. The report states that sending refugees back to Syria, where bombardments are still going on, is against the international laws as well as the Turkish laws. “Being in a city other than their registered city is not a crime but even then, it is clearly seen that during the ID checks, people who are present in Istanbul with their registry in another city are handcuffed and treated as a criminal by police officers. Despite the Provincial Migration Management statement saying the refugees with their registration outside of Istanbul are informed only, there are lot of visuals, pictures and videos showing otherwise. Almost all the stories mention leaving them without any food for long periods of time, ill-treatment and insults. Some witnesses say that the security forces insulted and showed violence with words like “My friend died in Afrin while trying to defend your country, you are all cowards.”


Report shows that the most common procedure is to deport by forcing immigrants to sign Voluntary Return Certificate. In one of the examples, Kilis Öncüpınar Temporary Reception and Accommodation Centre, it has been documented with concrete evidence that officials forced people to sign voluntary return certificate by means of violence along with the ill-treatment, and threatened them by saying “You will either sign these documents or you will stay here for the next 6 months.”.

It is explained in the report as this: “Also, committing crime is often used as an excuse to send immigrants back. For example, a lot of people are deported for forgery because they could not get the necessary documents from the regime and had to get them from the opposing region. Another person expressed that even though another person was beaten up really badly in front of his eyes, he also signed Voluntary Return Certificate. General statements show that Voluntary Return Certificate is signed by the means of threats, ill-treatment and humiliation. The fact that these people try to enter Turkey again indicate that they did not sign the Return documents voluntarily. Voluntary return documents with forced, involuntary signatures are invalid and deporting these people is a crime.”


The report which contains the violation of refugee rights listed the demands as follows:
“* Armed forces’ ill-treatment, house raids, identity checks, retentions, forcing to sign ‘Voluntary Return Certificate’ procedures towards to refugees must be stopped.
* All the criminalizing, accusative, stigmatizing, alienating speech and procedures must be put to an end.
* Deported people shall return to Turkey through legal means immediately.
* Immigrants must be given the rights to choose the city they want to register and unconditional freedom of travel.
* Family individuals that reside in different cities shall reunite in the city of their choice.
* Administrative detention procedures must end.
* The violation of human rights in removal centres must end, actions must be taken to abolish the removal centres.
* Turkey shall abolish the limitations put on the 1951 Refugee Convention and give refugee status to everyone running away from oppression.
* The readmission agreement between EU- Turkey that locks refugees in Turkey must be abolished. Nobody immigrates without any reason, all the borders must open.”
The second report will come out 19-20 August and it will be published biweekly.
Translated by Demet Demir