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Turkey police target Somalis in new 'harassment' campaign, says report

Police officers stand guard in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 [Altan Gocher/GocherImagery/Universal Images Group via Getty Images]
Police officers stand guard in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 [Altan Gocher/GocherImagery/Universal Images Group via Getty Images]

Somalis in Turkey have reportedly been undergoing harassment campaigns by Turkish police in recent months, as prejudice against immigrants and refugees continues to rise.

In a report by the London-based news organisation, Middle East Eye, the small Somali community in the Turkish capital, Ankara, have recently been targeted by police in what is allegedly a campaign of "harassment." The area of Kizilay Square, where many of the Somali stores and restaurants are based, is specifically part of that campaign.

Speaking to the paper, a Somali cafe owner in the area—Mohamed Isse Abdullahi—said that it started on 8 September when "15 police officers showed up and started to search everywhere." Five days later, "police in plain clothes visited us again, taking some of us to the nearby police station. They warned us not to employ unauthorised workers."

That was despite the fact that the only measure usually handed out to businesses employing unauthorised workers are monetary fines, leading Abdullahi to believe that the police were purposefully harassing them.

A few days later, the police went even further by arresting a number of Somali business owners, including Abdullahi, first taking them to a police station and then to the police headquarters in the capital. Without any explanation or charges, they were detained for two nights in a room with nowhere to sit, and with one of the detainees being refused his medicine—a violation of the law.

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Aside from the temporary detention, that month the police also gave deportation orders to a number of Somali business owners in Kizilay Square, forcing them to sell their stores or shut them down, prior to having to leave the country. Those orders were reportedly issued due to the Ankara immigration administration's decision to launch a deportation procedure against them.

"We learned that all of us, who had residence permits and legally owned businesses here in Turkey, were going to be deported," said Abdallahi, who holds two bachelor's degrees and one master's degree from Turkish universities. The deportation orders come despite the fact that he and the other Somalis hold residency permits and their businesses are legally owned.

The Turkish authorities' harassment of Somalis in the capital comes amid rising sentiment against foreigners and refugees within Turkey's society and the political scene. The country currently hosts over four million Syrian refugees and serves as a passageway for more who seek to enter Europe.

That anti-refugee sentiment especially flared up in August, after a Syrian refugee had killed a Turkish teenager in the Altindag district of Ankara, sparking riots and attacks against Syrians and their businesses.

The Turkish far-right and ultra-nationalists have also taken advantage of the current climate, with the Kemalist newspaper, Sozcu, directly targeting the Somali community in Kizilay Square in April. Under the headline "Ankara's hub became Somalia," it reported that Somali asylum seekers and business owners had transformed the area "into their own country."

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AfricaEurope & RussiaMiddle EastNewsSomaliaSyriaTurkey
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