The police raided the buildings used for the recycling of waste paper collected in Istanbul, using tear gas and rubber bullets during the raid and detained at least two workers, reported Mesopotamia News Agency.
The municipal police in the district of Umraniye carried out the raid on Monday morning at the recycling buildings. After the workers were questioned as to whether or not they had a license for collecting paper, the police announced that all the material in the warehouses was going to be seized.
As the workers reacted to the actions of the municipal police, the riot police were then sent into to the neighbourhood and the workers were fired upon with tear gas and rubber bullets.
It’s been reported that at least two workers were arrested during the operation and that the police temporarily retreated upon resistance from the workers, taking up positions near the warehouses.
The number of poorly paid workers collecting waste paper and plastic with hand carts was in August 2019, estimated to be around half a million in Turkey. These already poorly paid workers have been suddenly faced with an unemployment crisis when Turkey began importing huge amounts of waste.
In the second half of 2019, Turkey’s waste imports rose from 4,000 tons per month to 42,000 tons, with an increase of 1050%, making the waste collected in the streets almost worthless.
The workers treading the streets and alleys of the big cities day and night with their rickety carts loaded mostly with paper waste are still a very visible aspect of Turkish city life, especially since waste paper collecting is their only means of scraping a living.
The story of the lives of paper collectors has recently been told in the feature film ‘Paper Lives‘, distributed by Netflix in March 2021.