We met them at one of the many cheap “Sulu Yemek” (“Watery Food”) restaurants. They were West African Refugees from Sierra Leone living undocumented lives in Istanbul. They said, their crowded apartment was frigid in Istanbul’s winter. Every night they went Trash Sorting, hoping to find recyclables which they could turn into a bit of money. They said no other work was possible for them in Turkey.
As a group we went to a local homeless shelter that held Turks and political Refugees from other countries. The young men from Sierra Leone explained they had come as stowaways on international tankers. They were in Turkey illegally and they always feared arrest. They were afraid to even go to the government to start the refugee application process.
A man from Egypt and a man from Iran and others spoke with the men from Sierra Leone. Everyone of us were living and waiting and working in Istanbul and all of us were on the outside.
Writing by Sean David Hobbs, January 29 2012