Posted April 18, 2020 6:39 am by

Virus spreads anxiety among Istanbul’s African migrants

The group tours Istanbul neighbourhoods densely populated by African migrants in a car loaded with aid packages/AFP

Istanbul, Turkey, Apr 18 – With a list of names in his hand, Alfa Barrie is on the phone to an African migrant, one of Istanbul’s undocumented workers looking for help as the coronavirus pandemic hits Turkey’s largest city.

“Where is the house? Send me the location. I am coming,” he says.

Barrie’s three-member team, works with a voluntary group called Tarlabasi Solidarity Network which normally helps drug addicts and the homeless but has now redirected its attention to migrants, mostly Africans, to protect them against the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey.

“We call the head of the house. They come down to pick the package. We give them shopping cards, hand sanitisers, masks and gloves,” Barrie said.

Because of the social distancing rules Barrie, from Sierra Leone in west Africa, does not go inside the homes. Instead, he hands the aid bags over outside their apartment building.

Wearing face masks, the group tours Istanbul neighbourhoods densely populated by African migrants in a car loaded with aid packages, visiting at least 300 addresses per day.

“We have close to 5,000 beneficiaries on our list waiting for help. We have completed almost 25 percent of it,” Muhammed Siddik of the Tarlabasi Solidarity Network told AFP.

Virus spreads anxiety among Istanbul’s African migrants

The network operates with donations from the volunteers as well as from manufacturers/AFP

The network operates with donations from the volunteers as well as from manufacturers.

Some 80,000 African migrants from Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea and elsewhere — most of them undocumented – live in Istanbul, according to the network.

Officials say the city of 16 million people has recorded almost half of the nearly 80,000 coronavirus cases nationwide. A reported 1,769 people have died of the virus in Turkey.

‘How to survive?’

Idriss Camara from Sierra Leone comes down from his building in the Aksaray neighbourhood, where diverse migrant groups including Syrians live, to pick up the aid package.

The voluntary group also provides instructions about the deadly virus.

“All instructions are in here, so you can follow in both French and English,” Yasir, a Turkish volunteer with the Tarlabasi Solidarity Network, tells the group of Africans in the street before he hands them the leaflets.

“There’s a Whatsapp number you can call or send message when you feel sick or your friends are sick. You can call immediately Read More…