Refugee camp construction plan draws opposition in western Istanbul

Refugee camp construction plan draws opposition in western Istanbul

Refugee camp construction plan draws opposition in western Istanbul A plan to construct a refugee camp in the Çatalca district of Istanbul has drawn opposition from several civic organizations, as well as Çatalca Mayor Cem Kara, who said he did one want the tranquility of the peaceful district to be disrupted by a refugee camp, news website Radikal reported on July 10.

A number of civic organizations have started a petition in opposition to the construction of the camp with the support of Kara, the mayor of the Çatalca district from the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Kara said any sort of construction was not permitted in Çatalca because authorities had said the district was agricultural land and a water basin.

People could not build homes in the district as Çatalca was farmland, Kara said, adding they had spent three years on legal procedures to construct a high school in the district.  

“The project plan [for the refugee camp] encompasses a 14,000-square-meter area... We do not want a refugee camp here. This refugee camp will have no advantage for the district. We do not want an open-air prison surrounded by [high] walls. We are working for Çatalca to be an educational, agricultural and cultural hub. Çatalca is one of the most peaceful districts of Istanbul. We will resist as far as we can,” he said. 

Kara also said he had expected the current ongoing construction was for a house for the elderly, adding he was shocked when he saw a written statement from the Istanbul Governorate saying a refugee camp was to be built on the location instead.

The 14,000 square-meter project area, a farmland previously owned by the Finance Ministry, was given to Istanbul University in 2007 for the purpose of constructing a 100-bed capacity home for the elderly. The construction was almost complete when the university administration consulted the Family and Social Policies Ministry on the management of the house. 

The Istanbul Governorate then sent a written statement to the Çatalca District Municipality, which said the area on which the house sat had been given to the Interior Ministry to build a transfer center for refugees.

The statement also said a project plan was required for the 400-person capacity transfer center that was to be built by the Interior Ministry General Directorate of Migration Management. 

Kara also said the written statement he received stated the ongoing construction was going to be completed shortly, and the transfer center in Istanbul’s Kumkapı neighborhood would be moved to Çatalca.