The Promised Land (by Frederike Geerdink) - or Turkey's own Gaza
Enfin, the saga regarding the flotilla continues here in Turkey. And now, by accident through Twitter, I found an article by a Dutch journalist in Turkey, Frederike Geerdink, called: the Promised land, refugees in Turkey. (I rather call it ‘Turkey’s own Gaza). It’s an excellent piece how miserable life for refugees is in Turkey. And I am curious what refugees of Palestine thinks about the flotilla. And FYI, this article is written in December 2009. Now, read and judge:
Turkey is trying to bring its laws on refugees into line with Europe’s. In the meantime, refugees and asylum seekers who reach safety in Turkey live in a legal and social wasteland.
(published December 2009) By Frederike Geerdink
Several Turkish newspapers called it a disgrace last spring, when in Didim, a town on Turkey’s west coast, 65 people were forced to camp in the garden of a government building. These people were refugees from Palestine, Eritrea, Somalia and Iraq. And the pictures didn’t lie: there were children among them. And even though the authorities gave blankets and mattresses, the children were cold at night, wrote the papers with chocolate-thick letters. And, they added, the fact that the government didn’t offer these people a roof over their heads was a disgrace.
As if this was an exception to the rule. The Turkish authorities never provide shelter for refugees, and showed their humanitarian side only by handing out blankets and mattresses. The really exceptional aspect of the situation in Didim was that the deplorable situation of refugees in Turkey hardly ever becomes so visible. Usually refugees stay in a hovel in a dilapidated part of Istanbul, or with whole families in old, dark and smelly buildings in remote Anatolian cities.
Sometimes, they make it into the papers because they are found dead, for example in the sea between Turkey and Greece, (the refugees in Didim were also on the way to Greece when their boat broke down). Or in a field somewhere, dumped by a truck driver who discovered he was no longer transporting living people but dead ones. Or in the mountainous area between Iran and Turkey – where they are sometimes found frozen to death by shepherds reaching meadows high in the mountains where the snow has just melted.