Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria wave after wave of refugees arrived Turkey. Currently there are about 4 million Syrian refugees living in several cities scattered throughout the country. In the last local elections the AKP government lost major cities like Istanbul and Ankara (where hundreds of thousands of immigrants are living in precarious conditions) to the opposition parties, who mostly ran on an anti-Syrian nationalist campaign. Now, the AKP government is trying to win its constituencies back by resorting to mass deportations of immigrants.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria wave after wave of refugees and immigrants arrived Turkey. Currently there are about almost 4 million Syrians living in Turkey scattered to several cities. Turkey is probably one of the worst places for an immigrant escaping a civil war. Immigrants and refugees have a precarious legal situation here. They are not given proper legal refugee status since that would entail certain responsibilities that would legally bind the Turkish government to provide at least minimal cervices (health, residence, working permit etc) towards the immigrants. However, the AKP government still let the Syrian refugees to stay in Turkey, even semi-illegally, at least until now. The reason behind this strange policy was a deal the Turkish state made with the European Union. According to this, what may be called a "hostage" deal signed in 2013, Turkey would keep Syrian refugees without letting them to cross to the EU countries and accept them back if the EU wishes to expel those immigrants who somehow managed to escape from Turkey. In return, the EU would pay a compensation fee (initially 3 billion euros) to Turkey for its services. In practice Turkey became a huge concentration camp for immigrants (not only for Syrians but also for African and other middle eastern immigrants as well) just as Libya in Africa. Outsourcing its concentration camps to bordering police states enabled the EU bureaucracy to show itself as more "humane" compared to, for instance Trump's US, which built its own racist concentration camp system inside the US. Indirectly, Turkey's Erdogan regime doubly benefited from its deal with the EU, by doubly exploiting the Syrian immigrants: first, it was paid for its services to the EU as its concentration camp and border patrol state and second, by exploiting the Syrian immigrants as a source of cheap labor. Lacking clear legal status, refugees in Turkey are subjected to terrible conditions of exploitation in sweatshops and service sectors (the minimum wage is about 350$ in Turkey and immigrants usually receive less than that, sometimes half of the legal minimum wage).
Until recently the AKP government was content with this massive immigrant exploitation system it set up. However, when Erdogan's AKP lost almost all the major cities (especially Istanbul and Ankara) in the 2019 March local elections, AKP's nationalism and its immigration policy began to entangle with each other. The opposition parties formed an election bloc led by the Kemalist CHP, which included the alt-right Turkish nationalist IYI Party and several socialist parties. This nationalist-secular bloc was also openly supported by the Kuridsh HDP. One of the main slogans of the CHP and IYIP candidates was the "expulsion of the Arabs". Criticizing Erdogan's regime for being "soft" on immigrants, CHP-IYIP-Left coalition promised to expel Syrians from the mixed neighborhoods, cut all social aid to the refugees and close down the stores owned by the Arabic immigrants. To prove their fidelity to this morbid anti-Arab policy, CHP and social democratic municipalities began implementing an aggressive pogromism: for instance a CHP municipality in Antalya banned Arabs' entry to beaches or a CHP municipality in Mersin (both cities are in the southern Mediterranean coast) collected garbage recyclers' carts, who already live in extremely precarious conditions. Several pogroms and attacks on Syrians' houses occurred in small towns.
CHPs racist, anti-Arab slogans won over the support of some AKP voters. In the 2019 March and June local elections AKP lost almost all major cities in Turkey, such as Istanbul and Ankara. Ever receptive to the changing moods and desires of the extreme right and eager to amend its electoral defeat, AKP began to adapt an openly anti-immigrant stance. In Istanbul police started to round up Syrian immigrants in streets immediately after the elections. Those Syrian immigrants who are rounded up by the police are usually forced to sign a paper renouncing their "guest status" (an arbitrary status invented by the AKP government in order to avoid International legal responsibilities that a proper legal refugee status would entail). Then they are shackled, put into buses and sent either to Idlib in Syria where the war still rages on, or to small towns in the Turkish south-east where there is little or no job opportunities for the immigrants. In Ankara also, the AKP government and its nationalist allies closed down all small shops belonging to the immigrants especially those owned by immigrants of Arabic origin. In both cases the AKP government is pushing Syrian migrants into a desperate situation, risking their lives by forcing them to return to a war zone - created by the involvement and the occupation of the Turkish Army itself!
What is worse is that the Turkish left is totally complicit in all these racist attacks on the Syrian and other immigrants. Ever hostile to proletarian internationalism, the main body of the Turkish left sees its best opportunity to seize power positions in an alliance with a moderately secular racist Kemalist regime, as opposed to the conservative racism of the AKP. Turkish left is completely incapable of envisioning an internationalist world without borders. In the last elections almost all major parties supported the openly anti-Arab mainstream opposition coalition. For instance, ODPs leader (Freedom and Solidarity Party), one of the biggest left-wing parties in Turkey agreed to ran in the Kemalist CHPs list in Istanbul municipal elections, TKP (the mainstream stalinist party) pulled out from the election in June (in support of the CHP candidate) and HDP (the Kurdish opposition party, which many socialist parties and groups support) openly supported the CHP candidate for Istanbul. For these nationalist left-wing groups and parties uniting under the banner of an anti-Arabic coalition is convenient, since they can't envision a secular and internationalist program. From the Turkish left's standpoint the choice is between islamism or secularism. Instead of a class struggle perspective this is the fake bourgeois duality they accept and force upon the working class.
Unchallenged by the left and the mainstream parties, anti-Arab racism is extremely strong among Turks (and also Kurds). As a recent study done by the Center for Turkish Studies in Kadir Has University shows, between 60 to 80 per cent of the voters in Turkey are "unhappy" with the presence of the Syrian immigrants in Turkey, and this percentage is higher among the left-leaning CHP and HDP voters. For Kurds who were subjected to the vicious nationalist oppression of the Turkish state this may seem bizarre. However, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the situation in Iraq exacerbated the hostility between these two peoples, which needless to say, only benefits the Arabic and the Kurdish bourgeois parties.
Internationalists in Europe, the middle East and elsewhere should know that:
1) Turkey has become a vast concentration camp for immigrants from the middle East and Africa.
2) The EU's policies against immigrants are more vicious, sinister and successful than even that of the US. By turning huge countries in its periphery (not only Turkey but also Libya etc) into prisons, the EU indirectly and de facto reestablished slavery. EU capitalists are taking in as many immigrant laborers as they need to exploit for cheap and they are expelling the rest to be exploited or die in even worse conditions in its peripheral slave states like Turkey.
3) Internationalists can not turn a blind eye to the suffering of immigrant proletarians in these states, nor they can trust the local official left-wing groups and parties. These middle-class nationalist parties are openly racist and chauvinist and they are tailing behind the government or official bourgeois opposition parties.
4) To show class solidarity, the first practical step the European internationalists can take is to tell the workers of Europe the truth about the situation of immigrants in Turkey. The EU policies must be exposed and its covert support for Turkey must be stopped.
a video showing Syrian immigrants rounded up in Istanbul by the police, waiting to be sent off to Syria: