Straddling continents, Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia awaiting resettlement or hoping to reach Europe. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
(Ankara) November 19, 2012 — Jesuit Refugee Service has worked in Turkey since 2011 in agreement with a local non-governmental organization — KADER - Chaldean Assyrian Humanitarian Organisation. Straddling continents, Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia awaiting resettlement or hoping to reach Europe.
Three refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq share their journey with us below:
Refugee from Afghanistan
"Because of the war in Afghanistan my wife, my son and I fled to Iran. We stayed there 10 years. A couple of months ago we started hearing that the refugees in Turkey live in good conditions: housing provided, schools for children, medical coverage and most important: that we would be resettled quickly.
"Therefore when we came to Turkey we were caught by a big surprise: We slept on the streets, the UNHCR told us that they cannot help us with any accommodation; we asked about food. We learned that once we arrived in Turkey we must deal with these issues by ourselves.
"The biggest problem is that we came here without any money. Slowly we, as a bigger group of us Afghanis, started to look for solutions for ourselves. We live six families in one apartment in order to decrease the costs. That usually makes two families sharing one room. That causes a lot of problems but there is no other solution…
"Fortunately the Turkish people help a lot with providing bedding and simple house supplies. Also Turkish law enforcement officers try to help us to get residence permit so we can stay legally.
"Our hope, our dream is that we live like human beings: we have food to eat, we live in warm homes and our children can go to school. We hope to forget about the 10 years we spent in Iran…"
Refugee from Iran
"The only country I could have come to, which would give me a visa, was Turkey. I arrived three years ago with my wife and 10-year-old daughter because I could not have continued my life in Iran. I became a political refugee here.
"When I came I had a big hope because UNHCR accepted my file quickly, but as of now there is still no country which will accept my case for resettlement. I was hoping to go to another country, but I can see that that is very difficult.
"It is true that I feel secure in Turkey, the police do not follow me, but at the same time I have many psychological issues since I cannot see a future for my family here. I’m not allowed to work here, and that makes my life very difficult especially when I think about my daughter…"
Refugee from Iraq
"First I was living in peace with my husband and five children in Iraq, then the war started. Once the war started the Iraqi people started killing each other because of religious differences.
"On one black day a bomb exploded near our home and shootings started. At that point I was in the middle of the shooting. I was shot. I was taken to a hospital and once I woke up I realized that I lost my feet and my arm and once my husband saw me he did not want me any more …
"At this point I realized I cannot live in Iraq anymore and I must flee. I was thinking that Syria would be the best solution since they speak same language, and I was hoping to get some help there. Two of my children are very sick: one is mentally handicapped and the other has severe speech difficulties.
"I stayed in Syria five years until the war started between the Syrians. Iraqi women were being kidnapped from the streets and I became very worried about my daughters. I decided to come to Turkey, especially after I heard that there is an office of UNHCR and that Turkish government helps.
"What I see it very different from what I expected: no help, no schools and I cannot provide medical care for my children. The only thing I need is assistance so that I can put my children into school and offer medical assistance to my kids.
"The hope, which I have after coming to Turkey, is to be resettled to the third country. I hear that this is a very difficult case for Iraqis who came from Syria, but I cling in to that dream…"
Testimonies compiled by Jesuit Refugee Service staff in Turkey and edited by Christian Fuchs at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA