Connect with us

News

Volunteers in Instanbul rise above the political fray to help refugees

By ELIS GJEVORI

As refugees on the Greek-Turkish border continue to reel from decisions taken in far-away places their ordeal shows no sign of abating.

Migrants walk in Edirne at the Turkish-Greek border, March 9, 2020. ( AP )

Ipsala, Turkey – Images of refugees at the Greek border lighting fires to stay warm at night and families sleeping in makeshift tents during the winter have been circulated widely in Turkey and have galvanised some into action.

At dawn on Saturday, Zeynep and Omer Cam, two young Istanbul professionals, set off for the border town of Edirne to do their part.

“We want to do what we can to help,” says Zeynep, who is making the three-hour journey with a group of friends in a convoy of four cars and a truck.

Each car is packed with food, and the truck is filled with jackets, baby clothes, shoes, and other essential items.

Before leaving Istanbul, the group has to make one more stop.

A donor has 15 boxes of wet wipes waiting at an industrial house on the outskirts of Istanbul. Once the final pickup is loaded up, the convoy is ready for the 255km journey to Ipsala, a small district of Edirne.

Zeynep was moved to act by friends who had been to the border during the week and experienced first hand the plight of refugees. After conferring with a group of friends, they decided they had to help.

Within one week the group raised more than $3,000, in addition to the goods they have collected, to support the waves of migrants and refugees.

Fellow volunteer, Bilal Sariyasar, who has been making the trip between the border and Istanbul over the previous week, explains that the help the Turkish volunteers are providing is crucial.

“The situation there has become very bad, the aid we are providing is important for the people there,” Sariyasar tells TRT World.

“We don’t focus on their decision to come here or their background, we only want to help when they are here,” the Istanbul Technical University engineering student adds.

Feeding the ‘downtrodden’

Since the Turkish government announced that it would no longer stop refugees from going to the European Union, several thousand people have attempted to leave believing they can make the crossing.

Turkey hosts almost four million Syrian refugees who have fled the Assad regime and hundreds of thousands of refugees from other countries, in particular Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

The ensuing rush towards the border by some of these refugees left many unable to access basic amenities. In addition to the Red Crescent, civil society groups and volunteers have been an important help in looking after the refugees.

Ibrahim Tuzcu, a soup distributor for Ashane, a mobile soup van in Istanbul, drove to Ipsala, one of the main gathering points for refugees attempting to make the crossing into Greece. It also hosts one of the main border checkpoints.

READ  Refugees are 60 percent more likely to be financially Impacted by COVID-19, new research finds

“They are downtrodden and some of them have been made naked,” Tuzcu tells TRT World, referring to the refugees that were stripped down to their underwear by Greek authorities then beaten and sent back to Turkey.

Ashane mobile soup van in Edirne.(TRTWorld)

“Since Friday we have given more than 2,000 bowls of soup,” says a visibly tired Tuzcu who is now taking a break from distributing.

A Turkish Red Crescent official who spoke to TRT World on condition of anonymity was gloomy about the situation but also suggested that over the next two weeks there could be a reduction of people coming to the border.

A recent survey in Turkey found many Syrians have a very low desire to go back to Syria, where even if the Assad regime doesn’t arrest or torture them, they face crippling poverty.

Neither do the vast majority of Syrians want to move onwards from Turkey, a place many have made home.

The vast majority of refugees TRT World met at the border were from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and several other African countries. Many of them, unlike Syrians, do not have official status in Turkey.

Fear and misinformation

The first stop for the Istanbul aid convoy is the offices of the Mufti of Ipsala, a hastily prepared classroom served as a forward storage unit for much of the clothes.

Donated blankets, tents, shoes, clothes and other essential items at the offices of the Mufti of Ipsala.(TRTWorld)

The first village the group visits is Saricaali, with a population of slightly over 700, about 2.5km from the Greek border.

News comes through from local contacts that a building is being used by refugees as a resting place, waiting for the right opportunity to cross the border.

The arrival of the volunteers causes a great deal of interest as word spreads. Many of the people staying there had travelled to the border with only the things they could carry.

A large hall, that on a different day may have held a marriage ceremony, has been converted into an impromptu shelter. Different groups of people have gathered into their corners, attempting to create a sense of privacy.

“My dad is missing in Sri Lanka. I arrived here yesterday night, I’m trying to get to Greece,” says Nilaxsan, 27, who previously lived in Istanbul having escaped from Sri Lanka.

A member of the Tamil community he had left the island state in fear for his life.

He and his friends are appreciative of having received a pair of thermal socks and jackets from the volunteers. TRT World counted seven people that said they were members of the Tamil community and all with a similar story to Nilaxsan’s.

Images of Greek police beating up refugees have reached Nolaxan and his friends who fearfully ask whether the images were real and whether the same could happen to them.

The Greek government no doubt believes that stories of police brutality at the border may act as a deterrent for immigrants thinking of making the same journey.

With many of the immigrants who had believed that a crossing was possible now feel compelled to jump one more hurdle.

In this village of Saricaali, there are more than 100 migrants and refugees amongst which there are also several families including children. The vast majority were single men from Afghanistan and West African countries.

Turkish armed police officers patrolled the area, before leaving.

The immigrants encountered in the building fared a lot better than those sleeping out in the elements.

Immigrants attempting to make the crossing into Greece are spread out over large sections of the 200km border.

One of the aid workers receives a call that there is a group of immigrants close to the Meric river, which also acts as a border between Turkey and Greece.

Living in the open waiting for an opening

It’s now almost 9pm and the unusually warm weather slowly gives way to a cooler evening.

The group head northwards to the outskirts of the village of Kuplu, just 300 metres from the border.

There they find a group of twenty-five Syrians living in an open field looked after by two Red Crescent workers.

The lights from the nearest Turkish town are flickering in the distance, ahead of them is a menacing pitch-black Greek border.

The only source of light for the camp are the embers of the wooden fire. Many of the immigrants have laid out blankets on the ground and there is only one medium-sized tent which can’t accommodate everyone.

Open fire in a field at Kuplu village mainly with Syrians.(TRTWorld)

“Join us for tea,” says Mohammed in broken English as he stokes the fires.

All the people in this small grouping are Syrians who were previously living in Istanbul for several years.

“We want to go Germany, all the people here have members of our families there. In Syria we have nothing left,” says Mohammed. “We have been here for one week and we want to try and cross.”

When Mohammed is asked if he is aware of what may happen to him and the women and children he’s with if they cross to Greece, he exclaims: “The greek police have no honour.” He is seemingly prepared to take the risk nonetheless.

READ  Nigerian embassy attacked in Indonesia

Volunteers and the Red Crescent are most active during the night. When immigrants are most likely to cross the border and in the early morning when immigrants are most likely to be pushed back by Greece.

As the team of volunteers heads into Kadidondurma, a village North of Kuplu, they run into Ibrahim Kibar who is currently pursuing his Masters in International Human Rights Law in Sweden.

He’s been volunteering since February 28, the day after the government decided it would no longer stop those that wanted to leave from leaving and has come from Fatih, Istanbul.

Kibar witnessed first hand testimonies of refugees being beaten by Greek authorities, a policy he put down to teach migrants a lesson.

“When I ran into these men, they had only their underwear, they were thrown into the river by Greek soldiers or police. We gave them blankets, clothes, underwear, socks and loads of food,” says Kibar.

“Almost every single refugee that has been turned back by Greece has told me they were beaten up. They were kept in a secret location for two days with no food or water before being stripped of their belongings,” adds Kibar.

In Kadidondurma, where Kabir is based, there were three abandoned houses that had been turned into accommodation for the migrants.

Abandoned warehouse Kadidondurma with a indoor fire.(TRTWorld)

One of the smaller warehouses was divided into a section for women and infants with a separate section for men. There were several fires that had been set up and the resulting smoke made it difficult to breathe.

The men were using the fire to cook meat sourced from the nearby town Kadidondurma.

By morning some of them will attempt to make the crossing across the river and into Greece.

Kibar and the other volunteers will cover about 100km of the border, it’s now past midnight and the volunteers will be up until dawn ready to give aid.

Some who try to make the crossing will, without doubt, be back.

Source: trtworld.com

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
29 + 5 =


News

Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  US-Iran tensions fuel Afghan returns

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

READ  Illegal border crossings at Europe’s external borders drop

“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  Paris Police evacuates last big migrant tent camp

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  World Humanitarian Day: Refugees International team remembers colleagues who died during fact-finding mission to Albania

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  Paris Police evacuates last big migrant tent camp

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Rescued: Nigerians jubilate as trafficked lady is rescued in Lebanon

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Illegal border crossings at Europe’s external borders drop

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Voice for African Migrants. Site Design: Semasir Connect