When massive earthquakes hit southeast Turkey on February 6, authorities gave Syrian refugees living in the region permission to leave the area for 60 days.
Where are they supposed to go after that? Back to the devastated regions?
It’s not at all clear, and these people – who have essentially lost everything at least twice now – are stuck in a senseless, bureaucratic limbo.
Under ordinary circumstances, Turkey imposes travel restrictions on refugees, prohibiting them from leaving the provinces where they are registered with local authorities unless they secure a special permit.
Just after the quake, on February 7, the authorities lifted these restrictions for about 1.7 million refugees for 60 days.
Why 60 days? Who knows? It all seems so arbitrary – in both senses of the word.
The implication is they are supposed to return to the disaster zone about two weeks from now. But given the scale of the earthquakes, what would they be returning to?
Turkey’s interior minister estimates nearly 50,000 people died in the quakes. That includes some 6,660 foreigners, the majority of whom were Syrian refugees.
Two million people have left the earthquake region, but only the refugees are apparently being forced back to the area where the government says a quarter of a million buildings have been damaged.
You can easily understand why these doubly displaced people now fear they will be condemned to lousy housing in the devastated provinces.
The destruction caused by the earthquakes is not the kind of thing that gets fixed overnight – or even in 60 days. Turkish authorities need to lift the time restrictions.
These people have suffered enough. Many lost family members or suffered serious injuries, including amputation of limbs. They’ve been made homeless and feel traumatized.
They should at least be allowed to rebuild their lives without arbitrary bureaucratic barriers.