Updated preliminary report on African immigrants and refugees in Turkey

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A group of immigrants and refugees from various countries in Africa requested the HRA on 17 July to take legal action on behalf of more than 205 Africans dumped into the border zone between Turkey and Greece, forced into crossing the border into Greece. They were reportedly starving and unsafe. The HRA Central Executive Board petitioned the Interior Ministry for information on the situation, which is yet unreplied. The letter was copied to the Human Rights Inquiry Commission of the Turkish Parliament and the State Minister Responsible for Human Rights. Ms. Eren Keskin, Chairperson of HRA Istanbul Branch, visited the Foreigners’ Police of Istanbul to get information and to see 7 African immigrants and refugees still under detention. Her requests were rejected.

The Speaker of the HRA Committee on Migration, Forced Displacement and Asylum, Mr. Y. Bülent Peker has been authorised to conduct the HRA activities on the situation by the Board on 19 July. The HRA issued an appeal for urgent action on 21 July.

The HRA has been cooperating with the Civilian Aid Association Against Disasters for conducting an humanitarian operation into the border zone, but this has yet proved impossible due to the fact that the zone is under military control.

According to the HRA research, more than 300 African immigrants and refugees were detained at various points in Istanbul on 7 July. This was regardless of their status in Turkey, the only criterion was appearently their colour. They were mistreated and kept under inhuman conditions, including hunger. An Ethiopian refugee died immediately after detention, another had miscarriage. On 13 and 14 July, between 205 and 290 of them were dumped into the border line between Turkey and Greece. Turkish gendarmery forced them into the Greek side, while the Greek border police forced them back into the Turkish side. It is alleged that three of them died, three of them were raped, and the others were starving. Some of them may still be there, and may be facing imminent death and other dangers to their safety.

More than 150 African immigrants and refugees, citizens of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kongo/Zaire, Rwanda, Tanzania, Liberia, Togo and South Africa, have filed applications with the HRA Committee, complaining of death due to detention conditions, miscarriage due to detention conditions, rape, sexual harassment, ill-treatment, inhuman treatment, degrading treatment, confiscation of property and money, and violation of passports and travel documents.

I. Allegations

According to more than 150 complaints filed at the HRA since 19 July 2001, more than 205 African immigrants and refugees were arrested by Istanbul Police on 7 July. These people were kept under detention until 13 and 14 July, and then forced into the border zone between Turkey and Greece.

1. The only criterion in this collective detention practice was the colour of the persons. They were not questioned under detention on the grounds for leaving their countries and staying in Turkey; neither were they questioned on their legal status in Turkey. There were no charges made to them, including the usual charge that they were "illegal immigrants".

2. It is reported that the detention conditions were inhuman, the detainees were not provided with food, clean water and sanitation. The sick persons were not provided with medical assistance while these persons, especially women, became sick due to general detention conditions, particularly the lack of clean drinking water. They were kept in crowded narrow cells for at least 7 days collectively.

3. A refugee woman died on 22 July, and another had a miscarriage, allegedly due to detention conditions.

4. The detainess were forced to sign statements in Turkish, saying that they entered Turkey from Greece and they wanted to go back to Greece on their own will. Many of them were allegedly beaten up to sign these documents. It is reported that 7 of these persons ar

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