Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR

Deputies from the Immigration and Integration Sub-Committee of Turkey’s parliament were not allowed to talk to migrants as they visited an encampment at the Pazarkule-Kastanies gate on the Greek border, an opposition lawmaker said on March 4.

Thousands of migrants flocked to the border after Ankara decided on Feb. 27 that it would no longer prevent border crossings into Europe.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said that Hakan Çavuşoğlu, the commission’s chair from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), prevented lawmakers from getting into contact with the migrants.

“He acted as if we were here on an excursion. We came here to talk to people but were pressured to rush and make a statement to the press,” Gergerlioğlu told Duvar in the western province of Edirne.

The public agenda focuses only on rights violations committed on the Greek side, Gergerlioğlu said, adding that the overall situation was a major breach of human rights, regardless of who is to blame.

‘The numbers are misleading’

While Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu continues to update the number of migrants he claims have left Turkey from the city of Edirne – 135,844 at 9 a.m. on March 4 – Gergerlioğlu said these claims were misleading.

“I insistently asked the Edirne Governor’s Office how they reached this number of 130,000. They couldn’t give me an answer that satisfied me,” Gergerlioğlu said.

Gergerlioğlu added that the migrants preferred to take a 190-kilometer trail through the nearby Evros River. “Had some 130,000 people taken the river route, there would have been some horrific scenes,” he said.

‘They just watch’

There are no crossings through the Pazarkule Border Gate, Gergerlioğlu said, adding that Greek police are showing no signs of easing up on security.

Despite Athens’ strong pushback, Turkish officials continue to let migrants leave through the gates.

“Even though the Greek police are showing immense force, the Turkish police don’t bother to tell migrants ‘Don’t go, come back.’ They just watch.”