Several Syrians face deportation from Turkey after posting videos of themselves eating bananas as part of a “provocation” while “inciting hatred” following tensions between the host community and refugees over their financial wellbeing.
Eight Syrians, including one minor, were detained in the western city of Izmir, Turkish news agency Demiroren said on Saturday. The Turkish migration authority said earlier this week another seven foreign nationals were to be processed for deportation for related reasons.
Videos of people purporting to be Syrians eating bananas have sprung up since October 17, when an online news outlet filmed an argument between a young Syrian woman and a group of Turks on an Istanbul street.
In the video, a middle-aged man is heard complaining: “You’re living comfortably. I can’t eat a banana, you’re buying kilos of bananas.” A woman also criticised Syrians for not fighting in the country’s war but returning for religious festivals.
One TikTok video posted in response showed a group of young men laughing while munching on bananas in a barber shop as the soundtrack of the street interview played in the background.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Directorate General of Migration Management said “efforts are under way to uncover all the provocative posts … and to carry out the necessary judicial and administrative procedures against all individuals who make these posts”.
It said “deportation proceedings will be initiated” against seven foreigners after they had been processed by the justice system but did not specify where those detained would be deported to. The principle of nonrefoulement prohibits returning someone to a place where they face the risk of persecution or mistreatment.
Istanbul police authorities said 11 Syrians were detained for “inciting hatred” and “insulting the Turkish people”.
Turkey hosts the world’s largest refugee population, mostly made up of 3.6 million Syrians living under temporary protection. While they were largely welcomed at the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, worsening economic conditions in Turkey have seen local sentiment turn against them.
Some Turks complain Syrians have higher standards of living while they struggle to pay for basic necessities amid high unemployment and inflation.