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 Lake Van in eastern Turkey is believed to have been carrying 55-60 migrants, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on July 1, adding that six bodies had been recovered so far. The lake is near the border with Iran, from where migrants regularly cross into Turkey, heading west toward Europe.
Rear Admiral Cihat Yaycı, who resigned yesterday, is referred to as the “architect of Turkey’s recent policy in Libya, and the Aegean and the Mediterranean.” Now that he is gone, there might be room for Ankara to maneuver and revise its Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean policies to win hearts (but maybe not minds) in Brussels.
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.
Nuray Pehlivan reports: Thousands of migrants who remain at Turkey’s borders in hopes of crossing over to Europe are now being told to leave the area due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ankara’s recent instructions about the coronavirus directly contradict their Feb. 28 decision that allowed migrants crossings, leaving them once again in limbo.
Refugees in Istanbul have called on the authorities to act to protect migrants and refugees from coronavirus, saying that they were left to die amid the increasing number of cases. Speaking to Mesopotamia Agency, the refugees said that they took shelter in mosques since congregational prayers were suspended on March 16 to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
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.
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.
Money is an important part of the issue for Ankara; but so is its safe zone plan. The polls indicated that the public supported the military incursion into Northern Syria first and foremost because they believed that a safe zone for Syrian refugees to return may be created. As Turkey’s public opinion sours vehemently on the refugee issue, the “promise of sending back the Syrian refugees” is political gold in terms of returns in political capital.
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.
HDP MP accuses parliament immigration committee chair of preventing deputies from talking to migrants
HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said the chair of the parliament's Immigration and Integration Sub-Committee, Hakan Çavuşoğlu, prevented its members from interacting with the migrants whilst visiting the Pazarkule Border Gate on the Greek border. "He acted as if we were there on an excursion. We went to talk to people but were pressured to rush and make a statement to the press," he said.
Police are the first to give migrants bad news in Edirne where they've arrived in hopes of crossing over to Greece. "You can't cross," police say before advising migrants to go to Doyran Village where they can cross the river easily, adding that this is a better way to enter Europe. Meanwhile, a human trafficker sits down to negotiate and bargain with migrants in the encampment next to the police. He boasts that he transports migrants to the Greek side safely, accompanied by soldiers.