Hundreds of migrants detained in Ankara amid row over refugee policy - report

Turkish police have detained hundreds of refugees at a repatriation centre in capital Ankara, the Ankara Bar Association's Refugee Rights Centre said on Tuesday, as a debate on Ankara’s migrant policy has brought the government and opposition to loggerheads.

The migrants have been taken into police custody over the past 10 days, citing their lack of work permit, Duvar news site cited the centre’s head Ebru Beşe as saying.

The migrants, most of whom are Syrian and Afghan nationals, have been detained despite having residence permits and the Ankara Bar Association has been unable to contact them, Beşe said.

Turkey’s Syrian refugee population of some 3.7 million has become a political tool amid an economic crisis that overshadows next year's presidential election, with political discussions around sending them back to their war-torn country gain traction.

Earlier this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the government was working on a new project to facilitate the voluntary return home of some 1 million Syrian refugees living Turkey, marking  a stark change in tone on Ankara’s long-held migrant policy. The remarks arrived amid an increasing chorus from opposition groups vowing to repatriate the migrants over the next few years.

Lawyers with the Ankara Bar Association are not allowed to see their clients, according to Beşe, but know that their clients are being kept in a crowded facility under bad conditions.

Turkish police have a track record of filing false information regarding the detention of migrants, the official said, including claims that they were detained during an I.D. check, when in actually they were taken from their homes.

“We want to find out the real reason why they were detained. It is completely unlawful for an injured party to face the decision of exportation for seeking their rights at the court.”

“We are seeking to find out the real reason why they were taken into police custody,’’ Beşe said. We are requesting to see the victims of this treatment, whether they are at a police station or repatriation centre.’’ 

Turkey’s Syrian population has been faced with a wave of xenophobia in recent years, with anti-refugee sentiment being bolstered by the country’s high unemployment rate and ailing economy. 

More than 65 percent of Turks want the some 3.7 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, according to a February survey by the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV).


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