This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Turkey's Model Refugee Camps

"When some journalist from The New York Times comes to Turkey or Angelina Jolie comes to Turkey and wants to visit a camp, they are taken to these model camps."
"They are 'container' [camps]. They have health centres. They have schools. They have everything." 
"I hear through the refugees and people working in the field that all camps are not standard."
Professor Secil Ertorer, sociologist, York University, Toronto

"We provide the same accommodation, food, health, education and other humanitarian needs [in all the camps] with standards well above the international ones."
"Our camps are open to journalists and researchers and they may visit the camps anytime."
Ramazan Sevinc, Turkish government spokesman
A Kurdish refugee mother and son walk beside their tent at a camp in Suruc, Turkey.Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images/File -- Turkish refugee camp for Syrians

Ms. Ertorer was addressing  delegates to the Pathways to Prosperity Conference that took place in Toronto, last week. She informed the conference attendees of her experience living in Turkey this past August and September, of dreadful holding facilities where refugee-residents survive sub-zero winter with no heat, and insufficient food to maintain health. She did not personally witness these conditions, although she made an effort to verify what she had been told. She was denied a permit to visit.

There are 25 refugee camps installed in Turkey, holding the largest influx of Syrian refugees fleeing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's response to his Syrian Sunni majority's wish to have equal rights with those of his Alawite Shiite sect. The initial civil demonstrations against oppression by the Alawite regime morphed steadily into a vicious military campaign by President Assad against his own people, where a quarter-million have lost their lives and half the country's population has been forced to flee the regime's military attacks.

Turkey opened its borders, as did Jordan, and Lebanon, taking in millions of desperate Syrian families seeking haven, hoping at some future time to be able to return to their country of origin, sick with the knowledge that much of its infrastructure has been destroyed by their titan of a bloody tyrant. Rumours of poor living conditions in Turkey leading to Syrians seeking haven elsewhere, crossing the Mediterranean into Europe in hopes of finding succour there, are understandable as a result.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/File
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/File    Syrian Kurdish refugee children stand outside their tent at a refugee camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkey has constantly reminded the world of what a sacrifice it has made allowing refugees to cross into its territory, though at times it attempted to halt Syrian Kurds from making that journey. It has spurned European Union entreaties that it make an effort to halt the flood of refugees leaving Turkey's shores and inundating those of Europe, and the EU has been forced to prostrate itself, dangling promises of financial assistance to augment the amount Turkey has received up to now, along with hints that entry into the EU might be conceivable with Turkey's aid in stopping the flow of refugees.

Selcuk Unal, Turkey's ambassador in Ottawa, has denied the reports of squalid living conditions in some of the refugee camps in Turkey. If true, he states, it would make no sense for Turkey to hide them since it is in need of grater international aid to help cope with the Syrian tide. Turkey states it has spent $8-billion thus far on Syrian refugee relief, and has received a paltry $417 million in international aid.

Ankara has placed restrictions on local academics approaching the refugee camps who wanted to research the refugee situation. A Turkish colleague of Ms. Ertorer's had to withdraw from the joint information-gathering project as a result. Her project continued with interviews with refugees, United Nations staff, government officials, non-profit employees and others involved in the refugee situation, in the Turkish capital and in Izmir, a port city leading to Greece on the refugee route.

Ms. Ertorer reported she had seen Syrian refugees living on sidewalks and in Izmir and Ankara she saw for herself the slums where children become ill, suffering nerve damage working in shoe factories to help their families sustain life to be able to buy food. They suffer nerve damage applying toxic glue to the shoes they help produce, with their bare hands.

The camps that are hidden from view are packed with tents, there is poor sanitation, children cannot attend school and some of the model 'show' camps in contrast instead of tents have solid, sturdy "container" housing, electricity and plumbing. The latter are the camps that foreigners are permitted to see. It was from one of the hopeless refugee camps in Turkey, at Suruc, that Aylan Kurdi's family set out to find haven elsewhere than in Turkey.
A young Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, 3, drowned in his family’s attempt to reach Greece from Turkey, lies in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey

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