Following the report of Kenan Öztürk (TUMTIS), Turkish regional representative in the ETF Executive Committee, on the situation of Kurdish refugees fleeing from the barbaric violence of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, ETF’s governing body decided to accept the request for setting up an international delegation for a fact finding mission to the Turkish-Syrian border. The mission delivered a gloomy picture of the circumstances in which local authorities have to organise support for the refugees arriving in Turkey. At a press conference organised nearby Kobanî, a Syrian city that was recently under siege by IS troops, delegates from the Turkish and international trade union movement called for fair and transparent distribution of the financial aid provided by the international community and administered by the Turkish government.
Hosted by ETF affiliates BTS and TUMTIS and with the support of the Turkish confederations DISK and KESK, representatives from ITUC, ITF, ETF and ETF affiliate RMT visited refugee camps and met with authorities in the concerned region. In the talks with refugees and municipalities that coordinate the local support, set up camps and host refugees in their community, it became clear that international aid provided by for example the EU and managed by the Turkish government is not equally accessible for all refugees and in particular those with Kurdish backgrounds. Mayors and representatives from the municipalities in the Kurdish region along the Turkish-Syrian border testified that they do not receive any financial resources from the central government. All help currently provided, as for example tents, clothes, food, water and electricity, has been set up with the sole support from the local communities; Turkish trade unions are assisting with, among others, medical and educational assistance.
With the winter season entering the region, the need for winter proof tents, heating, warm water, blankets and clothes is becoming extremely urgent, while the municipalities lack the necessary resources. The ETF committed to investigate all possibilities for collecting financial contributions among its affiliates at the earliest convenience and to urge other international trade union organisations to do likewise.
ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas commented: “Given the dimension of the humanitarian crises, the trade union movement will not be able to resolve all needs, but solidarity contributions could give the example and help to address some basic needs.”
In the coming weeks a report on the fact finding mission will be produced, which will serve as lever when meeting with the European institutions in an appeal for more transparency on how the aid provided so far has been spent and distributed by the Turkish government.
You can view a selection of pictures taken during the mission here.