Harringay Green Lanes

North London Turkish community appeal to UK government for family visa scheme following earthquake devastation

A petition created two weeks ago demanding a visa scheme for victims of the Turkish earthquake has garnered over 80,000 signatures.

The desired schemed, which would permit Turkish people living in the UK to bring over family members made homeless by the earthquake, needs 19,000 more signatures to be considered for debate in parliament. 

On February 6 2023, a 7.8 earthquake struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria, killing over 44,000 and leaving an estimated 1.5 million homeless.

Gul Ozkinaci, 38, a Turkish woman living in London said: “I want to get my whole family here, I am very happy about this petition. If there is enough numbers maybe we can bring the family and keep them safe, some people are gone but maybe the rest of people we can do something.”

Other Turks living in London told North West Londoner they hope for a UK Government response similar to the one seen for Ukraine. 

Sevim Kaya, 30, whose family’s home was left destroyed, said: “The UK has done such a scheme for Ukraine, they can easily do it for Turkey as well considering how many Turkish citizens are in the UK and the contribution we have made to the country.”

As of February 2023, over 200,000 visas have been issued to Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK.

A Kurdish woman working who wished to remain nameless because of fears that authorities would arrest her when she returns to Turkey, said her family lost their home in the earthquake and are now staying in makeshift tents they have constructed themselves from plastic bags. 

“Turkey is like a child without parents,” the woman, 40, said. 

She told a story from her neighbour: “They can hear the voice of someone saying ‘Help! Help!’ for two days, and then after three days they die… They’re cold and they die. A lot of people they die from the weather.”

She described how her mother and sister have not changed their clothes since the first earthquake, concerned they always need to be alert and ready to move. 

More earthquakes hit on Monday, and people who were told by the government that their homes were safe, because they could not provide them with anywhere else to stay, were killed when they collapsed. 

Her small village has a predominantly Kurdish population, a reason she says there is a prominent absence of government help, considering the volatile relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurdish community. The government are channelling all resources to the big cities, she says. 

There is a general feeling of frustration over government failings in Turkey, and a sense that the level of devastation seen was somewhat preventable.

Kaya reflected on how general neglect meant that infrastructure has not been developed in the 20 years since the 1999 earthquake which devastated the same area. 

She said: “That’s the bit everyone is angry about, because the buildings that were built properly didn’t collapse.” 

She has heard that in small, rural villages, help came over 24 hours later, and despite the money being raised in Turkey, there are still not enough tents, food, and blankets for victims.

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