Angela Merkel visited Nizip camp in April CREDIT: EPA
Zia Weise, istanbul
The Turkish refugee camp praised by Angela Merkel has become engulfed in a sex abuse scandal following reports that Syrian children as young as eight were raped there by a camp employee.
A cleaner at the state-run Nizip camp in southern Turkey has been accused of sexually abusing 30 boys aged eight to twelve. The man, named as E.E. in court documents, is said to have paid the children between 1.50 and 5 Turkish lira (£0.35-£1.20) after allegedly raping them in the camp’s toilets.
Nizip, a tidy container city housing 14,000 Syrians, was the camp Turkey chose to show off its humanitarian efforts to Mrs Merkel last month.
During her visit on 23 April, a bank holiday celebrated in Turkey as Children’s Day, the German Chancellor was presented with flowers by a group of Syrian girls before touring the camp.
Camp security prevented the press from speaking to any refugees other than those hand-picked to greet Mrs Merkel.
In a subsequent press conference she heaped praise on Turkey’s response to the refugee crisis, saying she was “very impressed” by what she had seen in Nizip.
Angela Merkel during her visit to Nizip CREDIT: EPA
The European Council’s president Donald Tusk, who accompanied Mrs Merkel, concurred, calling Turkey the “best example in the world of how to treat refugees”.
A military official at the camp told BirGün, the Turkish newspaper that made the abuse allegations public today, that the Turkish government’s disaster management authority AFAD, which runs Nizip camp, should be held responsible for the abuse.
In a statement, AFAD said that measures had been put in place to prevent such abuse from happening in the future, adding that the victims were being given psychological support.
When military officials discovered the abuse on the camp’s security footage, only eight of the boys’ families decided to press charges. The others, BirGün reports, feared that they could be deported back to Syria if they complained.
The alleged abuse took place over three months before the suspect was arrested in September last year. In his court testimony, E.E. pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the boys but blamed the children for “inciting him”. The case continues.
Turkey is still reeling from an abuse scandal uncovered in March in the central Anatolian province of Karaman, where a teacher was accused of abusing his students in guesthouses run by Islamic organisations.
One of them, the Ensar Foundation, has close links to the Turkish government, sparking angry accusations of a cover-up when a proposed bill to investigate child abuse in Turkey was vetoed by the ruling party.