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Invisible Victims of Van Earthquake: Refugees

Van and Ercis were severely struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on October 23 causing an enormous devastation. The number of people who lost their lives is already more than 600 and it is unfortunately expected to rise. And there are more than 4000 injured. Because 30% of all buildings in the area are heavily damaged and many of the rest are medium level damaged, tens of thousands of people are struggling out in the biting cold to survive the night. And yet thousands of people are still deprived of even tents and blankets. And because certain tent encampments do not have toilets and baths as a result of an outrageously flimsy way of organizing them, there is also a danger of epidemic. In denial of a boasting government even the most basic things like sheltering and food distribution are in a shabby situation.

While the earthquake leaves tens of thousands of people out there in the cold, there are other victims who are almost invisible: refugees! Van is a border town near Iran and harbours thousands of refugees, coming from various countries, Iran in the first place, who take refuge in Turkey entering from that gate. They stay in Van under the supervision of the United Nations Refugee Agency and Foreigners Department while they are waiting for the completion of legal procedures. The earthquake was another severe blow to them while they had already been living under harsh conditions in struggling to survive in cheap rental homes and misery.

According to the UN Refugee Agency sources there are 3300 refugees in Van coming from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Most of the refugees whose homes are severely damaged now desperately await aid in an empty terrain in the district of Iskele. The staff of both the UN Refugee Agency and Foreigners Department left the town because their premises are also damaged, thus leaving the refugees to their own fates. The refugees are in a very difficult situation and complaining that they have not received any aid in any way. The refugees are prohibited to leave the town and have to give their signatures to official authorities with certain frequency in their waiting period for legal procedures. Although they were given a permit for a 15 days leave for the earthquake, most of them have no money to leave Van. Some 50-60 of them who were injured in the earthquake are said to have received treatment with their own means. The refugees are in desperate need for food, tents, blankets, winter clothes and money.

Natural events like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis turn into big disasters because of capitalism and no matter where these disasters happen in the world they always hit workers and toilers in general. That was the case in Van as well and workers, toilers, poor refugees are now struggling to survive out in the cold.

Forge solidarity with our class brothers/sisters in Van!

Immigrant workers are not alone!

Long live international workers’ solidarity!


31 October 2011