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Syrians threatened with deportation from Turkey over banana videos

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Seven Syrians risk deportation from Turkey after posting videos of themselves eating bananas on social media amid wider complaints about refugees’ supposed lifestyle

The seven people, as well as a Syrian minor, were arrested on Friday in Izmir, in the west of the country, the private news agency Demiroren reported. Earlier in the week, the Turkish Migration Authority said seven more foreign nationals were to be processed for deportation for related reasons.

Videos of people claiming to be Syrians eating bananas have emerged since images from online media were released on October 17, showing an argument in an Istanbul street between a young Syrian woman and a group of Turks.

A middle-aged man can be heard complaining, “You live comfortably. I can’t eat bananas, you buy kilos of bananas. A woman also blames the Syrians for not having fought in the country’s war but for coming back for religious holidays.

A TikTok video posted in response showed a group of young men laughing and munching on bananas in a barbershop as the soundtrack of the street interview played in the background.

Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, mainly composed of 3.6 million Syrians living under temporary protection. While they were widely received at the start of the conflict, the deteriorating economic conditions in Turkey saw local sentiment turn against them.

Some Turks complain that Syrians are living comfortably in Turkey as they struggle to pay their basic expenses amid high unemployment and inflation.

Demiroren said those detained in Izmir should be deported for “undermining public order and security”. The minor was transferred to an agency for minors.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Directorate General for Migration Management said “deportation proceedings will be initiated” against seven foreigners after they have been dealt with by the courts.

He added that “efforts are underway to uncover any provocative messages (…) and to initiate the necessary legal and administrative proceedings against all individuals who publish these messages”.

The next day, Istanbul police said 11 Syrians had been arrested for “inciting hatred” and “insulting the Turkish people”.

It was not clear where those detained would be deported. The principle of non-refoulement prohibits returning a person to a place where he or she risks persecution or ill-treatment.

Turkey insists it respects and abides by these rules, but groups such as Human Rights Watch have documented allegations that Syrians have been returned to their country.

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