Activisim

Violence and Systematic Degradation of Refugees on the Border

Documentation of human rights violations on the Turkish-Greek border in March 2020

From the end of February up until March 26th, between 15,000 and 20,000 asylum seekers were gathered at the border crossing Pazarkule with the hope of entering into EU territory. Throughout the duration of this period, they were subjected to various acts of violence and human rights violations. In this post, we collected the most important events.

BACKGROUND

The opening of the Turkish borders towards Greece prompted thousands of refugees - amongst them many women and children - to regain hope of entry to European territory by making their own way to the border. However, a large number of people who had been living in closed camps were forced onto buses to be transferred to the border by Turkish police, where several accounts of violence were reported.

At the border, they were repeatedly forced to cross by Turkish officials, sometimes at gunpoint, or ordered to storm the border. In some cases, they were even shipped to the other side of the border. The dangerous paths led either through NATO barbed wire or through the notorious border river Evros.

On the Greek side, people were arrested and systematically physically abused. Almost all of them were repeatedly beaten, often several times, with batons or lashes. Every single one was robbed of their papers, phones and money, sometimes also their clothes and shoes. All of them were brought back to Turkey in illegal pushbacks under the threat of or use of violence, many returned only in underwear in freezing temperatures. In addition, the Greek-European border guards deployed tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some of the tear gas used had expired over 20 years ago and was therefore highly toxic. In all cases, the right to an asylum application was denied, some people were arrested and fined large sums of money or several years in prison for crossing the border.

In the closed-off camp on the Turkish side (Pazarkule), the people were provided with extremely inadequate food and medication, had no protection against cold and wet, and apart from some mobile toilets, no sanitary facilities were available. They had to queue for up to eight hours for the little food they got, and were regularly beaten when they were not queuing in perfect lines.

Of the approximately 20,000 people who were locked up in the "wild camp", around 200 were permitted to leave the area each day throughout most of March to go to the nearby village of Karaağaç to purchase the necessities from the local supermarket - if they still had money.

Even with rain and freezing temperatures, people had no choice but to sleep outdoors in the mud in the fields surrounding the border area. The supply from Turkish organizations and the Red Crescent was absolutely inadequate, especially food, medication, blankets and tarpaulins all of which were extremely limited, and real tents were either unavailable or not permitted.

As of March 17th, people were no longer allowed to leave the border area , and the already inadequate food rations were reduced even more: one sandwich, one bottle of juice and one biscuit (March 19); no meals for men (March 20); at times only a few crackers for everyone else (March 22).

There was no medical care, not even for the chronically ill or disabled, and only a few ambulances took the severely injured to the hospital in Edirne. There were no showers or running water.

From 14.3 onwards, free buses were offered to take people back to Istanbul. This option was later also used as a threat when people hesitated to try and cross the border again. In Istanbul, many people, up to 100 a day, became stranded at the Esenler bus station. Until we organized a room, food, etc., there were no supplies and no sleeping facilities instead with people being forced to sleep on the outside stairs of a mosque.

According to officials, at least 5800 people were still staying in the “camp” on the border on March 23rd. Many others had given up and traveled to other parts of Turkey. We estimate the true number to have been between 6,000-7,000 people since the official estimate was made based on the food packs distributed, but we know that many people did not receive any. 

The evacuation of the camp near Pazarkule began on the afternoon of March 26th, 2020 with severe use of force. The 6,000 or so remaining people at the border were forced to board buses and were transported to nine different, closed off locations across the country for forced quarantine. The Turkish police set fire to the Pazarkule camp, along with all of the people's remaining belongings, whilst thousands of people were still in the immediate vicinity.

We are in contact with refugees in some of the camps - especially those in Malatya, Osmaniye, Düziçi, Kırklareli, Edirne and İstanbul. Nobody can yet predict what will happen to them after the two-week quarantine from March 10, 2020 onwards.

Approx. 250 people decided to keep trying to cross the border and hid from the authorities. To this day, they remain in bushes and abandoned buildings in the border region around Pazarkule/Edirne.

All others were forced onto buses and, contrary to the promise that they would be taken to Istanbul, taken to different locations in Turkey, many near the Syrian border, about 1,500 km from Edirne. On arrival, their phones were taken from them and they were put under closed quarantine.

They are now in locked gyms, detention centers or former camps. None of the sites were cleaned before their arrival, the food supply and hygienic conditions are again insufficient and many people are freezing.

On 1.4., they were forced to sign a document confirming that no violence was used against them and claiming that they were not forced to get on the buses or be taken to the camps.

On April 3, Amnesty International published a report confirming the rumours of deaths in at least two cases.

DOCUMENTARY


1:06 - 2:40 - Start and Turkish pressure 

2:40 - 3:00 - Greek forces confiscating bags of asylum seekers 

3:00 - 3:38 - People pushed back to Turkey without clothes

VIDEO-FOOTAGE (selection)

PICTURES (selection)

More info on the potentially deadly projectiles.




BACKGROUND

The opening of the Turkish borders towards Greece prompted thousands of refugees - amongst them many women and children - to regain hope of entry to European territory by making their own way to the border. However, a large number of people who had been living in closed camps were forced onto buses to be transferred to the border by Turkish police, where several accounts of violence were reported.

At the border, they were repeatedly forced to cross by Turkish officials, sometimes at gunpoint, or ordered to storm the border. In some cases, they were even shipped to the other side of the border. The dangerous paths led either through NATO barbed wire or through the notorious border river Evros.

On the Greek side, people were arrested and systematically physically abused. Almost all of them were repeatedly beaten, often several times, with batons or lashes. Every single one was robbed of their papers, phones and money, sometimes also their clothes and shoes. All of them were brought back to Turkey in illegal pushbacks under the threat of or use of violence, many returned only in underwear in freezing temperatures. In addition, the Greek-European border guards deployed tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some of the tear gas used had expired over 20 years ago and was therefore highly toxic. In all cases, the right to an asylum application was denied, some people were arrested and fined large sums of money or several years in prison for crossing the border.

In the closed-off camp on the Turkish side (Pazarkule), the people were provided with extremely inadequate food and medication, had no protection against cold and wet, and apart from some mobile toilets, no sanitary facilities were available. They had to queue for up to eight hours for the little food they got, and were regularly beaten when they were not queuing in perfect lines.

Of the approximately 20,000 people who were locked up in the "wild camp", around 200 were permitted to leave the area each day throughout most of March to go to the nearby village of Karaağaç to purchase the necessities from the local supermarket - if they still had money.

Even with rain and freezing temperatures, people had no choice but to sleep outdoors in the mud in the fields surrounding the border area. The supply from Turkish organizations and the Red Crescent was absolutely inadequate, especially food, medication, blankets and tarpaulins all of which were extremely limited, and real tents were either unavailable or not permitted.

As of March 17th, people were no longer allowed to leave the border area , and the already inadequate food rations were reduced even more: one sandwich, one bottle of juice and one biscuit (March 19); no meals for men (March 20); at times only a few crackers for everyone else (March 22).

There was no medical care, not even for the chronically ill or disabled, and only a few ambulances took the severely injured to the hospital in Edirne. There were no showers or running water.

From 14.3 onwards, free buses were offered to take people back to Istanbul. This option was later also used as a threat when people hesitated to try and cross the border again. In Istanbul, many people, up to 100 a day, became stranded at the Esenler bus station. Until we organized a room, food, etc., there were no supplies and no sleeping facilities instead with people being forced to sleep on the outside stairs of a mosque.

According to officials, at least 5800 people were still staying in the “camp” on the border on March 23rd. Many others had given up and traveled to other parts of Turkey. We estimate the true number to have been between 6,000-7,000 people since the official estimate was made based on the food packs distributed, but we know that many people did not receive any. 

The evacuation of the camp near Pazarkule began on the afternoon of March 26th, 2020 with severe use of force. The 6,000 or so remaining people at the border were forced to board buses and were transported to nine different, closed off locations across the country for forced quarantine. The Turkish police set fire to the Pazarkule camp, along with all of the people's remaining belongings, whilst thousands of people were still in the immediate vicinity.

We are in contact with refugees in some of the camps - especially those in Malatya, Osmaniye, Düziçi, Kırklareli, Edirne and İstanbul. Nobody can yet predict what will happen to them after the two-week quarantine from March 10, 2020 onwards.

Approx. 250 people decided to keep trying to cross the border and hid from the authorities. To this day, they remain in bushes and abandoned buildings in the border region around Pazarkule/Edirne.

All others were forced onto buses and, contrary to the promise that they would be taken to Istanbul, taken to different locations in Turkey, many near the Syrian border, about 1,500 km from Edirne. On arrival, their phones were taken from them and they were put under closed quarantine.

They are now in locked gyms, detention centers or former camps. None of the sites were cleaned before their arrival, the food supply and hygienic conditions are again insufficient and many people are freezing.

On 1.4., they were forced to sign a document confirming that no violence was used against them and claiming that they were not forced to get on the buses or be taken to the camps.

On April 3, Amnesty International published a report confirming the rumours of deaths in at least two cases.

DOCUMENTARY


1:06 - 2:40 - Start and Turkish pressure 

2:40 - 3:00 - Greek forces confiscating bags of asylum seekers 

3:00 - 3:38 - People pushed back to Turkey without clothes

VIDEO-FOOTAGE (selection)

PICTURES (selection)

More info on the potentially deadly projectiles.




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