Turkey’s Family and Social Services Ministry confirmed that some of the unaccompanied children who lost their families in the devastating earthquakes in the country’s southeast provinces have been placed in a home affiliated with the Human Rights and Freedoms Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a conservative NGO close to the government.
The Children and Women Association filed a criminal complaint on Friday over allegations that unaccompanied children in the earthquake zone were either being abducted by religious sects and handed over to people who then identify themselves as their families, or being sent to the organ mafia.
The association officials stated that they received notifications from the disaster regions that the children who were rescued from the rubble were not reported to the official institutions or recorded.
“It is reported that the unaccompanied child survivors were not handed over to the authorized state institutions, but to those who claim to be the children’s relatives, sects or organ mafia,” stated the Children and Women Association.
The Family and Social Policies Ministry stated on 9 February, “Our ministry is the only authorized institution regarding the unaccompanied children whose families have not been reached in the earthquake region so far,” regarding these allegations.
A ministry official confirmed to TELE1 on Friday that at least 20 unaccompanied Syrian children, along with seven mothers, were in a home owned by a female İHH executive.
Stating that the children and their mothers are in Syrian refugee status, the Ministry said that the quake survivor mothers and the İHH executive were already in contact before the disaster and that the necessary inspections were made on the subject.
“The mothers of all of them [children] are there. There is no contradiction. The children’s condition is good, their health and nutrition are good,” said the Ministry official, adding that if the children’s conditions deteriorate, they will be taken under state protection.
Upon the statement, the Women’s Platform for Equality (EŞİK) called on the ministry to detail how many children are in a similar situation and to carry out the whole process related to child earthquake victims in a transparent manner.
“Based on what law does the Ministry deliver children to İHH?” EŞİK asked.
Many children are still missing and many lost their families in the earthquakes that hit Turkey’s 11 provinces on 6 February. It is claimed that since the first days of the earthquake, some children who survived the disaster have not been taken care of by the state.
The treatment of 759 of the 1,464 unaccompanied children who were rescued from under the rubble continues, the Ministry announced on Friday. The identity of 267 unaccompanied children could not be confirmed so far.