If your problems have not been solved for years and the country in which you took refuge, does not grant you the status of a “refugee”, then your fear of being deported is not groundless.
While being a refugee is equal to lots of problems by itself, how can the situation of “a second class refugee” or a refugee not accepted as a “refugee” be? In Turkey, there are approximately 1204 Iranian Kurdish refugees living with the fear of being deported and they are not accepted as “refugees” although they are virtual refugees. In order to make these refugees’ situation more understandable, we made an interview with one of the refugees in this group. It will be helpful to give some brief information.
After the UNHCR Iraq Office stopped resettling refugees to third countries, the office was closed and the refugees, who were expecting their problems to be solved, remained unprotected. The violence that caused the closure of the Iraq Office, risked the lives of the refugees as well. This situation obliged the refugees in Iraq to look for a second refuge. As a result, some of these refugees, who were granted the refugee status by the UNHCR Iraq Office when they flee Iraq from Iran, took refuge in Turkey. Some of these express that it was the UNHCR authorities who directed them to Turkey. Their number is known to be 1204. Many refugees in this group (estimated as 70 – 150) in question were claimed to be killed in Iraq. After their arrival in Turkey, these refugees applied for asylum to both Ministry of Interior and the UNHCR Offic beforehand e. Their applications were dismissed by the Ministry of Interior without a rationale whereas they were accepted by UNHCR. These refugees have been maintaining the refugee lives in Turkey without accepted to be refugees. Their situation is on a level that may be described as a “refugee crisis”. Turkey has neither let these be resettled to third countries by UNCHR nor found a solution to their problems. Consequently, many refugees try to leave Turkey in illegal ways, putting their lives at jeopardy.
For detailed information on the situation of these refugee, please see: http://www.multeci.net/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=133; for the letters of the refugees posted on our site, please see: http://multeci.net/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=106,?
When and with whom did you come to Turkey?
In 2002, I entered Turkey with my wife and son and registered ourselves in UNCHR Office in Van.
May you tell us about the reason forced you flee from your country?
There is neither freedom of belief or sect nor individual or social freedoms in that country named Iran. The State always interferes the daily lives of people. Even the colors and styles of the clothes that are to be worn are determined by the State.
How long did you stay in Iraq?
We stayed in Iraq for several years.
Have there been refugees in the same group with you that were resettled to other countries?
Yes, there were people in our group who were resettled to other countries by the UNHCR in both Turkey and Iraq.
Why did you come to Turkey from Iraq?
Due to the activities of terrorist groups and lack of security, we entered Turkey helplessly. While we were residing in Iraq, approximately 150 Iranian refugees were killed by the terrorist groups of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
What were the problems that you faced when you fist came to Turkey?
Since our entry to Turkey, we maintained our life in despair. It has been approximately 7 years and we have been living in very low life standards. We have been living with the fear of being deported, a feeling following us like a shadow… When we came, we were not able to speak Turkish. We had to face difficulties in renting home and in finding job.
What do you think about the people living in Turkey?
People in Turkey maintain their lives in a natural way. Without the fear or concern of being detained…. They do not face a sanction due to their political ideology or religious beliefs. I wish this system was established in our country, Iran as well. However due to their unfortunate lack of knowledge on the situation in Iran, Turkish people blame us to escape from the Islamic republic. We have religion and belief as the other people around the world do. We are obliged to endure a refugee life because of the excessive intervention of the Iranian government to our lives and because of the government’s prohibition on our religious ceremonies (except the official ones) as well as on our political activities.
How did people treat you in Turkey?
In general, people in Turkey are hospitable. They treat us well. However, Turkey is culpable of our not being sent to the countries that accept refugees. In this situation we have been waiting since 2003 although we were accepted as “political refugees” by UNHCR in 2003. According to UNHCR, the authority that is responsible because of this situation is Turkish State.
How were the attitudes of the police officers in the Alien’s Department?
We have not come across a seriously bad treatment of a police officer working in Alien’s Department.
Which problems do you have right now?
I am always concerned about my family’s and my own future. I can not see a bright future. I can not make plans and make fundamental decisions about the future.
Has any person or NGO helped you for solving your problems?
Unfortunately neither a person nor an institution helped me with anything.
Has UNHCR showed concern for your problems?
UNHCR did not take any responsibility about us. It did not behave us like a human, put aside showing concern our medical or security problems… Sometimes UNCHR commissions visit the cities in which refugees reside. However they avoid seeing us during these visits. They avoid meeting us with the exception of “nothing has changed in your situation”. They do not make any attempt to figure out our problems.
Has not UNHCR made any attempt about you?
Since 2004, no serious attempt about us has been made. Our files were closed without the declaration of any decision. No serious attempts were made to figure out our problem. I do believe that there are no refugees that are as adrifted as us. No assurance is accepted for our future.
Do you take financial aid from UNHCR?
In this period of six years, we could find some aid irregularly. I made use of the deficit aid that is given to the refugees to make a living.
Why do you think a solution for you has not been found although you have been in Turkey for years?
There are not any refugee groups that are adrifted as us or whose resettlement took this long. They explain the situation with the excuse of the countries’ reluctance to accept refugees. However, UNHCR Office resettle other Iranians to Europe, US, Canada or Australia. UNHCR and Turkey blame each other about our situation.
In your opinion, did human rights organizations and NGOs working in the field of asylum struggle to figure out your problems?
In this period of six years, none of the groups or institutions that defend human/refugee rights seriously made an attempt.
[Despite this expression of the interviewed refugee, it should be reminded that the Amnesty International Office in Turkey made serious attempts in both national and international levels, particularly in 2005. This explanation is a necessity at least for the respect to the efforts spent. Nevertheless, it is impossible to find an attempt of any human rights organizations about the problems of this refugee group currently.]
Do you see a relationship between your problems’ remaining unsolved and the attitude of the State? Who do you think is responsible for this situation?
According to the explanations of UNHCR Office in Turkey, the liability of this situation is on Turkish State. We are facing this problem because of our entry to Turkey from Iraq. It is concerned that if we are resettled to third countries, other refugees that are in the same situation with us will come to Turkey. We accept UNHCR as responsible and guilty because of this situation. Because it is UNHCR that provides our relations with the State and make us opposed to each other. UNHCR should find a clear, logical and proportional solution. According to some speculations, Turkish State and UNHCR Office in Turkey made an alliance about our situation.
Do you think your problem is known by enough people?
Until now we could not share our problems enough because of financial insufficiency. We could not make a serious attempt to contact any international NGO.
It is known that a lot of Iranian Kurdish refugee that came from Northern Iraq, escaped from Turkey by illegal means? Why do you think people leave Turkey through illegal ways, risking their life?
The most important reason: Lack of a future. Of course poor income, unemployment, an ambiguous future, lack of right to education of the children that are older than 16 years old… all of these factors are effective in their flight.
How do you evaluate “being refugee”? What does the word refugee mean to you?
Refugee means a life full of problems, being ill-fated, lack of money to buy a toy for our children, the stress of being deported and torture. Even I can think of death penalty like a short film, when I hear the word “refugee”. When I come to myself in my tragic life, I find my body in sweat. Hopelessness and despair embrace my body, from head to toe.
How do you think your problems can be figured out? What would you tell the UNHCR and the Police Authorities?
Although we name the six years that has passed as injustice, it is now time for a solution. I hope UNHCR will make an attempt in a responsible sense in order to remove the chaos and deprivation in our lives.
What are your expectations from NGOs and human rights organizations?
I hope that the human rights organizations in Turkey will put pressure on UNHCR and by protecting us from the sulky face of the Commissariat; they will provide a smile in the pale faces of our children.
Translated by Ece Başaran