Saturday 22 October 2016

Turkish refugee camp hailed as a success by Merkel hit by abuse scandal

Zia Weise in Istanbul

Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30

German chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AP
German chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AP

The Turkish refugee camp praised by Angela Merkel has become engulfed in a sex abuse scandal following reports that Syrian children as young as eight were raped there by a camp employee.

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A cleaner at the state-run Nizip camp in southern Turkey has been accused of sexually abusing 30 boys aged eight to 12. The man, named as 'E.E.' in court documents, is said to have paid the children between 1.50 and five Turkish lira (45c to ¤1.50) after allegedly raping them in the camp's toilets.

Nizip, a container city housing 14,000 Syrians, was the camp Turkey chose to show off its humanitarian efforts to Ms Merkel. During her visit on April 23, a bank holiday celebrated in Turkey as Children's Day, the German Chancellor was presented with flowers by a group of Syrian girls before touring the camp.

Camp security prevented the press from speaking to any refugees other than those hand-picked to greet Ms Merkel. In a subsequent press conference she said she was "very impressed" by what she had seen in Nizip.

A military official at the camp told 'BirGün', the Turkish newspaper that made the abuse allegations public, that the Turkish government's disaster management authority AFAD, which runs the Nizip camp, should be held responsible for the abuse.

In a statement, AFAD said measures had been put in place to prevent such abuse from happening in the future, adding that the victims were being given psychological support.

When military officials discovered the abuse on the camp's security footage, only eight of the boys' families decided to press charges. The others, 'BirGün' reports, feared they could be deported if they complained. The alleged abuse took place over three months before the suspect was arrested in September last year. In his court testimony, E.E. pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the boys, but blamed the children for "inciting him".

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