2016 migrant deal
Dozens of migrants have been rescued from a boat off the Greek island of Halki, the coast guard said on Aug. 26, in one of the biggest operations of its kind in the country in months. At least 96 people had been rescued since the incident was first reported on Aug. 25 evening. The operation, 21 miles west of the small Aegean island of Halki, close to Turkey, was still in progress as witnesses reported that there were more people on board.
A boat that sank on Van Lake in eastern Turkey is believed to have had 55 to 60 migrants onboard, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on July 8, adding that six bodies had been recovered so far. The lake is located on the path of migrants attempting to reach western Turkey from Iran, Afghanistan and other countries.
In 2016, the EU called in consultants from McKinsey company to implement the refugee deal signed with Turkey in an attempt to expedite asylum procedures. A newly released report by a network of NGOs however has raised concern that in the process of trying to make asylum process faster, refugees' rights to a fair asylum procedure could be compromised. The EU's own internal procurement watchdog later deemed the contract signed with McKinsey “irregular.”
The plight of the refugees in Turkey continues as authorities have been taking them to a coast in Çanakkale to encourage them to cross into Greece. "Police have dropped us here and left. We are out in the open. There's no food or drinks. No one is coming. They told us that we can cross into Greece from where they dropped us, but there's no road here," a refugee told Duvar.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has said that discussions with Turkey regarding the continued implementation of the March 2016 are continuing. The talks between the two sides were initiated after Ankara announced in February that it would no longer stop migrants trying to cross its border into the EU, saying circumstances had changed since 2016, when the migrant deal was forged.
Women and children migrants at Turkey's border with Greece protested the European Union's refusal to allow them entry in front of the Kastanies Border Gate on March 12. The group chanted slogans such as "Greece, open the gate" and "Help us" as they marched across the encampment where they have been waiting to leave Turkey since Feb. 28.
Turkey's Health Ministry has appointed a National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) to conduct health screenings on the thousands of migrants at the Greek border. UMKE employees have begun to disinfect the encampment and check the temperatures of migrants with electronic and thermal devices.
The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) will be applying to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of migrants who were exposed to violence by Greek forces, TBB Chair Metin Feyzioğlu said March 11. Feyzioğlu visited the encampment near the Pazarkule Border Gate with a committee, where he said they collected evidence of maltreatment by Greece.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 10 that he was due to meet Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, French leader Emmanuel Macron and possibly U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a summit in Istanbul on March 17.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency has claimed that Greek police are digging a trench along the border and have placed fences along the Evros River, a relatively safe crossing for migrants. Migrants at the Turkey-Greece border have been exposed to tear gas and plastic bullets from both sides since Ankara's Feb. 28 decision to allow migrants to cross into the European Union.
The EU and Turkey agreed to set up two working groups to clarify the continued implementation of the 2016 migrant deal, European Council President Michel said on March 9. The parties agreed to task EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with continuing the discussions in order to clarify the position of both sides on implementation of the 2016 deal, Michel said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged Greece to open its borders to migrants, adding that he would meet European Union officials on March 9 to discuss migration. "We were hoping to get much more support from international community when it comes to refugees. I have a meeting with European Union officials tomorrow in Belgium. We will discuss these issues," Erdoğan said.
Turkish and Greek academics both agree that Turkey, Greece and the European Union as a whole failed to fully abide by the 2016 migrant deal. While Greek academic Konstantinos Tsitselikes said the number of people who crossed into Europe was is closer to 1,000 rather than the 140,000 claimed by Ankara, Turkish academic Murat Erdoğan says the EU's refusal to accept the migrants is justified.
Around 300 migrants at Ankara's Akyurt Repatriation Center were transported to the border against their will on the night of Feb. 29, Ankara Bar Association's Migrant Rights Center Chair Sadık Onur Gelbal said on March 4. According to a migrant still in the center, only 7 migrants stayed in the center after resisting deportation. Attorneys have not been allowed to visit it.
The European Parliament's former Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, has said in a statement on Twitter that the European Union failed to uphold its end of the 2016 migrant deal with Turkey after several EU countries have criticized Ankara's recent move to ease border restrictions.
Editor's Pick
Soner Çağaptay and Raffaella A. Del Sarto write: The EU often praises itself as a promoter of democracy and regional stability by highlighting the power of its enlargement process to include new members in the “neighbourhood.” Yet in the case of Turkey, its ill-conceived policies may well have contributed to the opposite. A clumsy EU has repeatedly gotten its policy toward Turkey wrong, often inadvertently helping Erdoğan at key points during his rise while creating preventable tensions with Ankara.
Politics
Turkish police on Oct. 28 detained five people over their alleged involvement in the suicide bombing that shook Hatay's İskenderun district earlier this week. İskenderun was rocked by an explosion on Oct. 26 which the authorities blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
President Erdoğan has asked whether people believe that "anyone can't bring home the bread." "Do you believe that anyone can't bring home the bread? Do you think such thing exists in Turkey? Turkey is ahead of many countries in terms of its minimum wage and salaries," Erdoğan told reporters, adding that Turkey is "at a great spot" when one looks at data from the IMF and OECD.
The second leg of Turkey's Rafting Championship took off in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Oct. 27. The four-day event brought together 400 athletes from across the country. Both male and female athletes will compete in categories for downstream rafting, slalom and RX, a unique sub-category of the sport.
A Turkish man named Ömer İ. shot and killed his ex-fiancé and her mother hours after the young woman petitioned for a restraining order against him on Oct. 27. The assailant committed suicide during a stand-off with police shortly after.
The cover-up of the ancient mosaics and frescoes was "unqualified to the point of destroying the structure's character and artistic value," Istanbul Municipality Deputy Secretary General Mahir Polat said. The 4th-century museum was transferred to the property of the state's religious authority, and will open for Muslim worship on Oct. 30.
Public housing residents of southern Hatay who lost their homes in a recent forest fire are still expecting the government to help them, weeks after they were rendered homeless by the flames. While many officials visit the area regularly, they merely take pictures and leave, housing complex residents said.
Leader of ruling People's Alliance member Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, babbled during his weekly speech at the party's group meeting as he forgot the word "cake." The chairman accused opposition parties of preparing to eat cake in Paris once he managed to speak again, possibly a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's row with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who heads the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), has said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's call for a boycott of call was “childish” and "a propaganda." "There are products carrying French brands that are produced in Turkey. They are produced here but their brand is French. What are we going to do, boycott those too?" he said.
Medical staff in both public and private institutions will not be allowed to quit their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a notice issued by Turkey's Health Ministry on Oct. 27. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) released a statement with regards to the ministry's new regulation saying it is “unacceptable" at a time when the COVID-19 is still not being recognized as an occupational illness and healthcare staff are not being tested for the virus on a regular basis.
Firefighters have been battling the forest fires that erupted in the southern provinces of Adana, Mersin and Hatay on Oct. 27. Authorities have said that teams have been trying to bring the fires under control and some houses have been evacuated to keep locals safe.
The Turkish Lira further lost its value on Oct. 27, measuring more than 8.1 liras on the dollar as a result of more than 35 percent depreciation this year. The depreciation is a result of Ankara's increasingly strained relationship with the European Union, as well as the United States.
The German government has said that the Erdoğan regime has in recent years increased its support for Milli Görüş, an Islamist group monitored by German intelligence services due to alleged extremist leanings. In its response to a parliamentary question, the German government has also emphasized the links between Milli Görüş and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
The ruling AKP has turned down the opposition's demand for budget discussions to be aired live on the official channel of parliament, called TBMM TV. The opposition deputies have said that these talks need to be conducted in a “transparent” manner as it concerns the people, with a CHP lawmaker saying that Turkey has not experienced such a “dark period” in its history before.
An employee of the United States’ Istanbul consulate was handed five years and two months in prison on charges of aiding the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The court did not arrest Nazmi Mete Cantürk, meaning he will be free pending appeal.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar has said that the party condemns extremists' abuse of Islam to justify their violent actions, but also slams France's treatment of Islam in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Many prisoners in Turkey, particularly political prisoners, are held in facilities hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from their families, making it very difficult for visitation. Requests by prisoners for transfer to a closer penal institution are now being rejected by the authorities on account of the coronavirus.
As coronavirus cases surge in Istanbul, Governor Ali Yerlikaya said that he can be a "scapegoat" if anyone's looking for someone to blame. The governor also said that he has been working closely with Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. “My job is not politics, it is service. To that end, I am continually in contact with İmamoğlu. You should know that we are working very well [together]. There is no problem whatsoever,” he said.
Turkish police have apprehended seven ISIS militants who were preparing for attacks in the capital Ankara in the latest round of operations against the jihadist group. According to authorities, the militants were seeking to attack Oct. 29 Republic Day celebrations and Nov. 10 ceremonies that are held each year to commemorate Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu right in his case against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While Turkish courts ruled that Kılıçdaroğlu "attacked Erdoğan's personal rights" in two separate speeches in 2012, the ECHR ruled that the country violated the main opposition leader's freedom of expression.
Economy
Turkey's Central Bank Governor Murat Uysal said that it has no target on exchange rates as the lira touched a new low for a third day on Oct. 28. Uysal said higher import costs, with the lira tumbling to record lows beyond 8.3 to the dollar, rising food prices and strong credit growth were the main causes of the upward revision.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has said that the economy is growing despite the tumbling Turkish Lira. The lira weakened to a record low on Oct. 26, hit by investor unease over the central bank's decision last week to keep its policy rate on hold and various sources of geopolitical concern. Strains in ties with the United States, a row with France, a dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have all unsettled investors.
Turkish monthly inflation was almost four times greater than the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers. According to the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG)'s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61 percent from the previous month, compared to the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK)'s calculation of 0.97 percent increase.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Oct. 22 Turkey will operate the gas field which it recently discovered in the Black Sea on its own, but it may cooperate with foreign firms in terms of detailed work and equipment. The minister's comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 Turkey had raised the estimated reserves of the field to 405 billion cubic meters after finding an additional 85 bcm.
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
Urban Beat
Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır is nestled in Mesopotamia and has a deep legacy spanning millenniums and civilizations. A recent discovery on the 8000-year-old Amida Höyük archaeological site has unearthed an 1800-year-old heating system that was quite sophisticated for the time.
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.