Syrian refugees find shelter in Istanbul neighborhood abandoned due to urban renewal project
A group of refugees have now settled in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Fikirtepe which has been abandoned during the last few months after the municipality launched its controversial urban renewal project.Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the chaos in their homeland have arrived in Istanbul during the last year looking for abandoned areas in the city to settle in.
Scenes of women and children asking for alms in the center of Istanbul have become a familiar site for millions of the city’s residents.
A group of refugees have now settled in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Fikirtepe, on the city’s Asian side, which has been abandoned during the last few months after the municipality launched its controversial urban renewal project.
Photos by Levent KULU
One of the female refugees said it is thanks to the help of some of the neighbors that they have managed to survive.
“We took shelter in these houses, rather than staying on the streets. When you are in despair, you try anything. Most of our husbands have died. Our children beg on the streets to make money. We haven’t taken a shower for months,” a female refugee told daily Hürriyet.
Meanwhile, residents of the neighborhood are worried about the possibility of a health epidemic occurring and some have conveyed their complaints to Kadıköy’s municipality.
“We have a guilty conscience when we eat our dinner in our house in the evening. But we also feel very uncomfortable about this situation. We cannot even buy bread from the same market where they do their shopping. We feel that our own children can catch diseases,” said one of the residents of Fikirtepe.
Area ‘soon be demolished’
For his part, Kadıköy Mayor Aykurt Nuhoğlu, warned that the area where the refugees have taken shelter would soon be demolished as part of the urban transformation projects.
“We would set up camps [for the refugees] if we had the land, but there isn’t [any land where we can set up camps]. It is not possible for us to solve this issue on our own,” said Nuhoğlu, adding that they had contacted Istanbul’s Governor’s Office for help.
Recently, parts of a movie directed by Turkish moviemaker Murat Uygur on the flight of Syrian refugees were filmed in Fikirtepe.
Located in the middle of the mostly upmarket Kadıköy district and near the road connected to Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge, the neighborhood had become a prized area for new urban projects.
Some 50,000 housing projects are expected to be built in the next three years, generating an economy of around 40,000 billion Turkish Liras.
Meanwhile, groups of Syrian refugees have also settled in other urban renewal areas near the city’s historic district.
There is no exact data on the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul, but according to a recent statement by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, the official number of refugees has exceeded the one million mark.