Turkish police use tear gas on migrants awaiting new IDs

Turkish police in the southwest city of Denizli are under investigation for using tear gas early Monday morning to disperse migrants waiting in front of the immigration office for new identity cards, according to multiple sources.

Migrants in Turkey are required to refresh their temporary identification documents given by the immigration authorities every six months. Local migration offices only perform ID refreshing on appointed dates, so long queues often develop, with waits lasting many hours.

On Sunday night, dozens of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan and Iran, camped out in front of the Denizli migration management office to wait for ID processing scheduled for Monday morning. Hours later, while many of the migrants were sleeping on the pavement, police reportedly used tear gas to disband the crowd, news website Sendika reported late Monday.

"We have to go there on Sunday and stay until Monday morning. Police come to drive us out. Sometimes they use tear gas. This is inhuman," an Afghan refugee told Sendika.  "While we were sleeping there, police came and swore at us. We said we would stand in a line, but (the police officer) said it was not his concern."

An Iranian refugee said two migrants waiting in line had an argument shortly before the police arrived. "An Afghan man had a quarrel with an Iranian,” the refugee told Sendika. “However, police randomly used tear gas despite they had already stopped fighting."

On Tuesday, Denizli police dismissed at least one officer who had used tear gas on the migrants and launched an investigation into the incident, according to pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak.

With more than 3.5 million refugees taking shelter within its borders, Turkey is host to more refugees than any other country.

But human rights organisations say Turkey has not fully ratified international agreements to protect refugees’ rights, and it has enacted discriminatory legislation, making it more difficult for refugees to obtain legal aid, work permits, education for children, and psychosocial assistance, leaving them extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.