Geopolitics

Billions In EU Aid To Turkey Hasn’t Stopped Wave Of Refugees

Turkey is supposed to guard our borders against more refugees and receive financial aid for its services. But refugees fleeing to Europe across the Mediterranean keep coming.

Refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing from Turkey on a dinghy
Refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing from Turkey on a dinghy
Deniz Yücel

AYVACIK â€" Less than six miles separate this town on Turkey’s western coast from the Island of Lesbos, Greece. Nearly two-thirds of the 850,000 refugees who arrived in Europe via the Greek isles in 2015 crossed over to Lesbos.

But entering European Union territory via Turkey is supposed to have become impossible now, at least according to the Joint Plan of Action that the EU signed with Turkey at the end of November. This agreement stipulates that Turkey must patrol its coastlines more effectively and take back illegal refugees who crossed over from its territory. To be able to fulfill these terms, Turkey will receive 3 billion euros from Brussels and Turkish citizens will no longer have to apply for a visa to enter the EU.

In the first two weeks of 2016, Turkish authorities intercepted some 2,000 refugees, and arrested 27 traffickers. But is this really a lasting solution?

A few miles south of Ayvacik is Kemal Nazli’s office, located in a former Greek stately home. As the chief Turkish national government officer in Ayvacik, Nazil is wondering how he his supposed to seal off the entire coast of his district, as the EU has demanded. "We would be able to do more with more aid," he notes. "But no country is able to keep people outside or inside its borders if these people really want to enter or leave."

Nazil says patrolling the entire shoreline 24/7 is unfeasible for his police force of 250, even in the winter when there are around 70,000 residents in the area â€" and certainly not during the summer, when the population rises to 500,000.

Cash is short

None of the localities along the coast know exactly how the EU-Ankara Joint Plan of Action will affect them. But one thing is clear: The 4.6 million euros that Turkey spends daily on humanitarian aid for refugees is not enough. "We provide first aid items such as blankets, clothing, baby food," says 41-year-old aid worker Özgür Öztürk. "The police were skeptical at first but now they call us in to help when they have picked up refugees or rescued them from sea."

Traffickers are not the only ones making money from the refugee crisis: Local hoteliers, shop owners, taxi drivers, jewelers, farmers who rent their fields to the traffickers, and scavengers who search the beaches for valuables have all capitalized on the new migrant routes.

A crossing to EU territory, which cost $3,000 last year, now costs $650, but you will have to share a rubber dinghy designed for 30 with twice that many. The higher the risk, the lower the price, although traffickers now promise that should you get caught, you won’t have to pay twice for the same journey.

Professor of Medicine Cem Terzi of the Bridge Between People Association in Izmir, which provides medical aid says the EU's three billion euros over three years may sound like a lot, but should be put in proper perspective. "Last year’s turnover of human trafficking industry was a lot higher than that. Do you really think that all this business will cease to exist? This is the largest migration since the end of World War II."

Falling dusk

On a recent day, we visited the small district of Dikili, near the village of Badelmi, the morning after a group of refugees tried to cross over to Greece. Panic swept over the boat because of the high waves, says Zaid, a 35-year-old electrical engineer from Baghdad, and the young Syrian refugee steering the boat, Mohammed from Aleppo, slammed into the cliffs.

Local Turkish authorities picked the group up on the beach at dawn, and a few hours later, Zaid’s jeans are still wet in the chilly morning. He has no change of clothes. "I want to get to Europe because it is peaceful there," he says.

By dusk, not too far from Badelmi, we find more people preparing to cross. It has also begun to snow. Esra Simsir, head of the Asam Association that represents the UN Refugee Agency in Turkey, says that they try to convince people to either stay in Turkey or to leave Turkey legally. She says Turkish authorities have not done enough to give these people more resources, though recently granted work permits for refugees are a start.

"We are expecting an explosion in numbers," says Simsir. "As soon as the weather turns mild again, we'll be expecting as many people as arrived at the end of summer last year." Available statistics support her assumption: Only 1,694 refugees were registered on the Greek isles in January 2015, but according to estimates last month, this number has since gone up to 50,668. Still, mass migration is not as overt as it used to be, not even from the hub that is Izmir.

A few days after we met Zaid and Mohammed near Dikili, we hear that the Greek Coast Guard found 25 corpses, ten of them children. And Monday, at least 27 refugees, including 11 children, drowned after their boat capsized near the Turkish coast while attempting to reach the Greek island of Lesbos. Numbers like these should never be faceless.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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