Wednesday, January 15, 2014

AFAD Report: Syrian Refugees in Turkey, Field Survey Results 2013

Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Managment Presidency (AFAD) published a report on Syrian refugee in Turkey.

From the introduction part of the report;

AFAD conducted an extensive profiling survey with Syrian refuges living in temporary accommodation centers and outside the centers in various cities in Turkey. Survey aims to (1) collect data to improve the conditions and quality of the service in the temporary accommodation centers, (2) obtain demographic socio-economic and socio-cultural information about the Syrian refugees, (3) do a needs assessment for the humanitarian needs of the Syrian refugees living in various cities outside the temporary protection centers.

The profiling survey is carried out as face to face interview in the accommodation centers in Adana, Adıyaman, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Malatya, Mardin, Osmaniye and Şanlıurfa. Survey includes questions on demographic and socio-economic profile, accommodation, security, health, education, nutrition, water and cleaning, and expectations for the future. The survey in temporary accommodation centers collected information from 7,860 refugees in 1,420 households and the survey for refugees living in various cities outside the temporary accommodation centers includes data from 7,340 individuals in 1,160 households.

To read the full report in English please click.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Syrian Refugees Having a Hard Time In Greece


As the civil war in Syria gets worse day by day, the number of refugees who seek better luck has been constantly increasing. The host countries in Europe and the Middle East have grown uneasy over the new arrivals. Greece is the main and easiest access for Syrian refugees to reach Europe.

But as Greece enters its seventh year of recession, and as Greek society is reeling from painful cuts and strict measures, the phenomenon of xenophobia is rising. Indicative of this situation is that the Greek neo-Nazi party is the third most popular party in Greece according to opinion polls, while attacks on immigrants and refugees become more and more common every day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Europe’s race to the bottom on protecting refugees from Syria

By Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights
In much of Europe, ‘asylum-seeker’ and ‘refugee’ have become dirty words. It is rare to find a politician who will express genuine concern for refugees in public; when it does happen, it’s usually on a visit to a refugee camp somewhere far from Europe’s borders.
At the national level, politicians either avoid the subject or link it to words like ‘crime’, ‘invading’ and ‘queue-jumping’.
Last week Amnesty International called on EU governments to resettle more refugees from Syria, to lighten the immense burden borne by the main host countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the reactions were telling of the political climate.
Some people asked why it was Europe’s problem if Muslims where killing other Muslims in Syria. Others said they did not want “terrorists” coming to their country. Some just didn’t like the idea of resettlement, saying that their countries’ financial contributions to the humanitarian crisis were sufficient.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fortress Europe: Syrian refugee shame exposed

A refugee camp located in former military barracks in the town of Harmanli, Bulgaria

European leaders should hang their heads in shame over the pitifully low numbers of refugees from Syria they are prepared to resettle, said Amnesty International. 

In a briefing published today, An international failure: The Syrian refugee crisis, the organization details how European Union (EU) member states have only offered to open their doors to around 12,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria: just 0.5 per cent of the 2.3 million people who have fled the country. 

“The EU has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees who have lost all but their lives. The number of those it’s prepared to resettle is truly pitiful. Across the board European leaders should hang their heads in shame,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

‘I feared the Greek police more than the Syrian military’

By Amnesty International’s researcher on migration in the European Union
The snarled-up traffic on the bus ride from the airport gave me some much-needed time to reflect on my recent research trip, where I looked at how Greece is shutting the door to refugees seeking safety in the European Union (EU).
Having just left Athens, I was now in Istanbul, where I would go on to meet many more families of refugees from Syria. They, too, told me how the illegal and dangerous practice of push-backs was dashing their dreams.  
The dreaded push-backs from Greece
I listened back to a recording of the testimony of X., a young Syrian of Palestinian origin, whom I met in a central Athens café where Syrian refugees have taken to gathering. He made it to Greece after two attempts – the first time was a terrifying ordeal where his boat was pushed back, and the second time he was ill-treated by police, which has left him living in fear. His deep voice came alive as I played back the interview, and he slowly but steadily recounted his harrowing tale.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Syrian refugees in Turkish camps live on 80 liras of monthly aid

 As of Nov 12, 202,793 of the Syrian refugees who had fled the civil war in their homeland were living in refugee camps in Turkey while 491,000 were living in rented accommodation outside the camps, according to the report. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Syrian refugees staying in refugee camps in the southern provinces of Turkey have been living on an allowance of 80 Turkish Liras ($40 or 29 euros) per month, according to a recent report drafted by the Parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry Commission.

Hot meal distribution in refugee camps was stopped due to “food culture differences,” and refugees now cook their meals on their own with ingredients they buy from markets at refugee camps via a card system. Many refugees complained that 80 liras was not enough for their food shopping from grocery providers at refugee camps, since no other monetary assistance was provided to the refugees, the report said.

Sixty of the 80 liras are provided by the United Nation’s World Food Program while remaining 20 liras are provided by Turkish Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

Syrian Refugees Find Discomfort and Unrest in Bulgaria

Bulgaria Syria Refugees

Khaled stayed in Syria until the last possible moment. He had an important job to do, working with a clandestine network delivering aid to devastated Damascus neighborhoods. One by one, other members of the network had disappeared. Some were killed, others arrested, while many became so embittered by regime atrocities they decided to take up arms. When he was the last one left, Khaled — who requested that only his first name be published for fear that relatives still in Syria could face retribution from the government — decided it was too dangerous to stay. He set off for what he hoped would be peaceful sanctuary in Europe.

But in the six months since he left home, Europe has not been as kind to Khaled as he was to his fellow Syrians. After a difficult trek across the mountains from Turkey to Bulgaria, border guards detained the 32-year-old for illegal entry. After explaining his plight, he was shuttled between overcrowded holding centers for two months, eventually paying $370 in fees to lawyers and translators to get the government approval he needed to live outside the camps. Finally he has his liberty; now he fears for his safety.

Syrian refugees in Istanbul sent from pillar to post

I was at the cashier of our local grocery store, chatting with another customer as aited for my change. Suddenly, a small hand at the end of a thin smudged arm pushed us apart to put a couple of coins on the counter. In return, the grocer took two cigarettes out of a pack and pushed them toward the hand witThe hand belonged to a boy, half the size of my 11-year-old daughter. As I watched him place one cigarette behind an ear and light up the other, I could not help but exclaim, "My goodness, he is what? Five, six? And smoking already!”

The boy either didn't hear me or didn't care to react. He walked away puffing, seemingly in a happy mood, unaware of the uneasy feeling that such adult-like behavior in so young a person had left in us.

We were silent for a moment. Then, the grocer said, “These are Syrian kids. They live here in the park now. Cigarettes are the least of it.”
That was more than three months ago. Istanbul was enjoying a mild late summer, and the roses in our neighborhood park on the shores of the Golden Horn were in full bloom.

The next day, during my morning jog, I saw them. There were half a dozen boys of various heights, running between trees, playing some sort of tag. The grass was wet with dew, and they were shoeless.

Behind them, sitting with their backs against the stone wall of the park were the women — mothers, aunts, sisters. There were no men and no tents. Only pieces of cardboard, two large plastic bags apparently filled with all their belongings, a few pots, one old blanket.

Passing by, I said, “Merhaba.” "Hello." They understood but did not respond except for a vague smile.

That was that.

I suggested to a colleague who runs an online newspaper to send one of his reporters to the park. By then, the plight of homeless Syrians had not been in the news much. I did not know yet that there were hundreds of families taking refuge in other parks in Istanbul.

During the autumn months, they became much more visible. One would see them in the parks, under the trees near the bus stops, at the metro stations. Suddenly, the city seemed to be full of them.

They are among the women begging silently in busy marketplaces. Their children come running through traffic to car windows to sell a pack of paper handkerchiefs.

The traditional means of subsistence of the urban poor in Istanbul have become the refugees’ only chance to survive. But Syrians stand apart as they will not communicate except for the call for mercy in their eyes. To each other, they speak Kurdish or Arabic.

The men are harder to spot. They seldom spend the days with their families as they seek jobs that do not require them to speak Turkish. The “fortunate” ones are hired to work in sweatshops. Others wash cars, carry bricks, pull out weeds or just wait around to be picked up for a day’s work at a nearby construction site. Jobs are scarce, pay is irregular and — at its best — it is one-third of what a registered worker would earn for the same job. According to a survey by the Platform to Monitor Syrian Refugees in Istanbul, the average income of a refugee is $275 per month.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) claims that there are 600,000 Syrian refugees in the country. Of those, AFAD reports, only 201,000 reside in 21 government-run camps in 10 provinces.

Unofficial estimates for the total number of Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey are higher — over a million, according to the Organization of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (MAZLUMDER), 75% of whom live outside refugee camps.

On average, each family has five to six children and more than half of the Syrian refugees in Turkey are under 18.

Halim Yilmaz, vice president of MAZLUMDER, who wrote his organization’s 19-page report on the needs of Syrians in Istanbul, told me Dec. 2 that the refugee population has increased dramatically in the last couple of months.

“Over a million Syrian refugees are in Jordan and Lebanon each," he said. "We believe there are more in Turkey. AFAD counts those with documents only. Syrians who took the mountain paths to cross the border are not registered, and there’s no official body that is responsible for them.”

In mid-September, when MAZLUMDER issued its report, the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul were estimated at 100,000. Yilmaz puts the figure at “well over 200,000” today.

How many of them are in the parks?

Yilmaz hesitates to give a figure. He says there are still 15 families in the Sirinevler Park, "but thanks to civil-society efforts, the overall number is much lower now.”

One such initiative is the Platform of Solidarity with Syrians in the Parks. They have a Facebook page where they gather information about the refugees in need, collect donations and search for affordable housing for them. So far, they have rented two shelters by paying the realtor’s commission, the deposit and the first few months’ lease.

Communal apartments in Fatih, Istanbul’s old district, are home to 100,000 Syrian refugees. When the Fatih municipal authority evacuated a coastal park due to neighbors’ complaints of refugees’ noise and trash, Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural and Solidarity Association came to the rescue and opened the doors of their cemevi to 150 Alawite Syrians, mostly from Aleppo and Idlib.

Alawites seem to make up a substantial part of the refugees in Istanbul. One reason for this is their unwillingness to stay in the Sunni-majority camps in southern Turkey. Muhammad, an Alawite of Turkmen descent, told Dalia Mortada of Public Radio International that they were scared of what would happen to them in the camps.

“I heard that there are people who are getting bribed in the refugee camps. … They get a tent or a container and food and blankets, but at night they’re given guns and are forced to fight.”

The family who lived in the park in my neighborhood was Alawite, also. Our doorman once took a pair of winter boots that did not fit my daughter anymore and brought them to the family. “They're Alawites,” he reported back, himself a devout Sunni. “It doesn't matter. They are people, and it's getting cold.”

Today, before I sat down to write this article, I took a walk in the park. The rain was heavy and a cold breeze blew from the sea. I looked around hoping to see the family and at the same time, wishing them gone to a warmer place.

They were not there.

I asked the police guards at the Istanbul headquarters of the Justice and Development Party across from the park if they knew what happened to the refugees.

“They were removed,” one of them told me. “With the party building, the convention center and all, they posed a security risk here.”

Read more: