Istanbul, Turkey – In recent years, the number of Palestinians in Turkey has increased to some 25,000, including 1,300 students.
Istanbul itself has a growing Palestinian community that numbers 10,000 people, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, many have heeded the government’s calls for physical distancing and working from home.
Faid Mustafa, the Palestinian ambassador to Turkey, said eight Palestinians have been infected by the coronavirus in the country, but all are in stable condition.
The head of the Palestinian community in Turkey, Hazem Antar, told Al Jazeera he and his team, in tandem with the mayor of Istanbul, are working around the clock to provide support and sustenance to Palestinians in the city who are cut off from basic needs because of coronavirus restrictions.
“We started with a primary campaign that targeted more than 720 people and we provided housing for young people who were forced to leave their houses because they could not pay rent,” he said. “These days we are delivering meals and sanitary products to Palestinian students.
The Palestinian consulate also has a hotline to provide assistance to those stuck in Turkey and want to return home but cannot because of travel lockdowns.
One volunteer, Bilal Khalil, has delivered aid to the homes of students, workers, families and patients. “We wish this epidemic finishes soon so we could go back to our normal life,” he said.
Many of the Palestinian residents have stuck to self-quarantining at home, with some saying although the experience is not unusual to them, the psychological toll is harder to bear.