Turkish prisoners report shortage of tests, food amid COVID-19 outbreak

Although Turkish officials are insisting there are no serious problems involving the coronavirus outbreak in prisons, a number of complaints from inmates have recently surfaced, indicating a dangerous health situation among prisoners.

According to Deutsche Welle Turkish service, a prisoner in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison said that in addition to 44 officially confirmed coronavirus cases in the prison, at least 55 more inmates were infected with the virus.

“The tests are only conducted for inmates with chronic illnesses. [Even if you exhibit symptoms,] the ministry does not authorize testing non-critical inmates,” the prisoner told his wife on the phone.

The recording of the phone conversation was sent to DW Turkish.

“When we insisted, the doctor referred us to a hospital. Seven out of eight of us tested positive [for COVID-19]. Most probably, our entire ward is sick right now,” he added.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on April 28 that 120 prisoners had tested positive for coronavirus, but there has been no follow-up since then.

The İstanbul’s Bakırköy Public Prosecutor’s Office on May 8 said there were 44 inmates with COVID-19 in Silivri Prison.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights defender and a member of parliament, said there were more cases than the official figures indicated, adding that inmates are not receiving proper treatment.

“There is no quarantine here,” the prisoner told his wife. “You recover if you can by yourself. No one cares about [prisoners] here.”

Ş.S., another relative of a prisoner in Silivri Prison, told DW Turkish that 39 inmates with coronavirus were kept together in a ward designed for only eight people, adding that there was a shortage of food to the wards in general.

Meanwhile, officials speaking to DW Turkish insisted that all the necessary measures had been taken to keep inmates safe from the outbreak.