December 2020

December 2020

“Migration and Harmonization” discussed at the fifth Local Media Meeting

Date: 29/12/2020

The topic of the fifth session of the “Local Media Meetings” was “Migration and Harmonization” that is organized by the Harmonization and Communication Department of the Directorate General of Migration Management, Ministry of Interior. It was held online and it focused on the Aegean and Mediterranean regions.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss the factual correctness of the information in the media and  the use of correct terminology, and to raise awareness among local media actors about the issues regarding migration. Among the participants, there were Mehmet Akarca - the Chief Advisor to the President of the Republic of Turkey, Dr. Aydın Keskin Kadıoğlu- the Head of the Harmonization and Communication Department, local media members from the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, and the Provincial Directors of Migration Management.

One of the speakers of the program, Mehmet Akarca, highlighted the difficulties migrants face in the places they arrive and added, “The hosting communities face certain difficulties in terms of accepting the arriving migrants and refugees. However, refugees make great contributions to their host countries. This should not be neglected”.

In his presentation on the harmonization actions in Turkey, Dr. Aydın Keskin Kadıoğlu addressed media actors: “In this journey that we embarked on to find solutions to the problems associated with human migratory flows, the moments you capture with your cameras and the words you write in your articles will be the proof of the love and solitude we have been showing towards the victims”.

The program also included presentations on migration terminology prepared by migration experts, on the services provided by YIMER 157 (Foreign Communications Centre), and on the communication resources of the Directorate General of Migration Management.

The presentation titled “Looking at the Media” by the Directorate General of Press Relations emphasized the great responsibility of the media in shaping public acceptance and pointed out that individuals working in the media should have a a good grasp of migration concepts, be well-informed about the programs that Directorate General of Migration Management runs, and to avoid using phrases that might disturb public acceptance.


Syrian refugees hope to return home after 10 years in Turkey

Date: 28/12/2020

Almost 10 years have passed since Syrians in Turkey fled their country due to an ongoing civil war. Syrians in a temporary refugee center in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş said they hoped the war in their country would end, enabling them to return home.

As they enter the new year with bittersweet joy, Syrians living in Turkey feel the sadness of being once again far from their home.

"I have been here for seven years. I miss my homeland. I was born there, I spent my childhood in Idlib and was 10 years old when I came to Turkey. We had to come here because of the war," Fatma Birumu told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Birumu added that she was met warmly in Turkey and received the necessary support. Currently preparing to attend university, she said she hoped to be able to return to Syria next year.

Another Syrian, Habbabi Darwish, voiced how difficult the living conditions in Syria were, saying he hoped Turkey would never experience such pain.

Ayyush al-Shehri, on the other hand, said though he has been in Turkey for 10 years, it has not become his homeland. "Turkey is almost like our homeland, but still I want to go back to my original motherland. Turkey is looking well after us, yet hopefully, the war will end and we will go back."

"We want to live in Syria with our children after the war ends," said Keldum Abdulkareem, who noted he has not been able to see his relatives for almost 10 years. "Half of our youth is there and half is here. We cannot live like this forever."

After the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, Turkey adopted an "open-door policy" for people fleeing the conflict, granting them "temporary protection" status.

Although there are many countries that host the persecuted, Turkey is home to the world's largest refugee population with 4 million refugees – over 3.7 million from Syria.

Turkey has made large investments in social cohesion policies to enable Syrians to integrate into Turkish society smoothly.

In addition to 33,000 university students, more than half a million Syrian children are enrolled in schools across Turkey, according to UNICEF. They are learning the Turkish language, as well as other disciplines.

Integrating children into Turkish schools was one of the policies interrupted due to the coronavirus, as schools across the country were closed and education continued via distance learning.

Many Syrians live in crowded houses, and they may not have the equipment needed for their children to continue education online.

Yet, while children are finding a place in the labor market for themselves instead of going to school, Syrian women tend to remain unemployed. They have a labor market participation rate of only 6%. The overall labor force participation rate among Syrians in Turkey is 38%.

Although some Syrians are business owners or co-owners with Turkish nationals, a large number of Syrians in Turkey work in the service sector. According to the U.N. figures, over 130,000 work permits have been granted, and over 10,000 Syrian entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to start a business in Turkey.

Ankara so far has spent around $40 billion (TL 274 billion) on the Syrians in Turkey, while the European Union has provided only around 3 billion euros ($3.34 billion) of a promised 6 billion – a gap Turkey has long demanded be closed.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, said last Wednesday that it is extending two programs, one that provides cash assistance to migrants in Turkey to meet their basic needs and the other that provides funds to help educate children. The programs will be extended until early 2022 at a total cost of 485 million euros ($590 million).

The commission said they provide much-needed cash to more than 1.8 million migrants and help educate more than 700,000 children. The programs are managed by the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) in partnership with the Red Cross and UNICEF. The money does not go directly to Turkey's government.

In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and to find a solution for the influx of migrants heading to EU countries.

Due to the migration waves that followed the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Turkey established 26 temporary refuge centers in 10 provinces, according to the Migration Directorate. As the situation worsened in Syria and returns became more difficult, Turkey adopted a strategy to facilitate their social adaptation. As of Sept. 16, 2020, 59,877 Syrians under temporary protection are hosted in seven temporary refuge centers in five provinces while over 3.5 million Syrians under temporary protection live outside these centers.

Meanwhile, Turkey is also working to improve living conditions in northern Syria to enable the return of refugees by building infrastructure, schools and hospitals, among other vital facilities.

The success of Turkey's cross-border operations has enabled the return of more than 414,000 Syrians, the Interior Ministry announced in October.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched four successful anti-terror operations – Euphrates Shield in 2016, Olive Branch in 2018, Peace Spring in 2019 and Spring Shield in 2020 – across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable peaceful settlement by locals.

Turkey often voiced that in order to establish long-lasting stability and normalization in Syria, the return of displaced Syrians to their hometowns is just as important as the fight against terrorism.

Following Operation Peace Spring launched on Oct. 9, efforts to clear bombs and improvised explosive devices were initiated to create a peaceful, stable environment for the return of refugees and administrative duties were given to local councils.


Turkey: EU extends humanitarian support for refugees

Date: 27/12/2020

The European Commission has extended two humanitarian flagship programmes in Turkey until early 2022. These programmes help over 1.8 million refugees meet their basic needs and will help over 700,000 children to continue their education.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The humanitarian needs of refugees in Turkey persist and are even further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The EU is fully committed to support those in need, as we have done for the past years. I am glad that our flagship programmes help thousands of refugee families have some normality in their daily lives. This is a true demonstration of European solidarity.”

The programmes that were extended until early 2022 are:

  • The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is providing over 1.8 million refugees with monthly cash assistance to meet their basic needs. This is a largest EU funded humanitarian programme ever. It is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent.
  • Conditional Cash Transfers for Education (CCTE), the largest EU-funded humanitarian education programme, providing support to families whose children attend school regularly. It helps over 620,000 refugee children continue their education and will support 700,000 in 2021. The programme is implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent.


Turkey hosts close to 4 million refugees, with 70% of them children and women. More than 98% of refugees in Turkey live outside camps. Some 3.6 million are Syrians who fled the ongoing war.

The ESSN and CCTE programmes were set up under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The extension of the programmes announced today are no longer funded under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, but from the budget of the European Union.  The programmes will continue supporting the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. Both programmes are implemented in partnership with the Government of Turkey.

The ESSN provides the most vulnerable registered refugees with monthly cash transfers onto an electronic debit card to help pay for what they need most, such as food, shelter, health and transport. The CCTE programme funds bi-monthly cash-transfers, via the same debit card, to vulnerable refugee families whose children attend classes regularly.


Mutual steps to lead ‘positive’ EU-Turkey ties

Date: 24/12/2020

Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday that EU and Turkey were trying to create a “positive atmosphere” amid recent tensions with some members of the bloc.

“With some mutual steps taken recently, we are trying to create a more positive atmosphere,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said addressing staff of the Turkish Accreditation Agency or TURKAK.

Recalling recent talks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with European Council head Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and other foreign ministers, Cavusoglu said: “We are working on a road map for future.”

Meanwhile, the Turkish foreign minister also addressed via video-link the International Relations Council of Turkey.

Relations between Turkey and EU member state Greece are at odds due to several issues.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara has sent several drill ships in recent months to explore for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its own rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiation.


EU to spend hundreds of millions more to help refugees in Turkey

Date: 23/12/2020

The European Union plans to spend hundreds of millions of euros over the next year helping refugees living in Turkey, most of them people who fled the war in Syria.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, said Wednesday that it is extending two programs, one that provides cash assistance to refugees in Turkey to meet their basic needs and the other that provides funds to help educate children.

The programs will be extended until early 2022 at a total cost of 485 million euros ($590 million).

The commission said they provide much-needed cash to more than 1.8 million refugees and help educate more than 700,000 children. The programs are managed by the Turkish Red Crescent in partnership with the Red Cross and UNICEF. Money does not go directly to Turkey’s government.

Turkey is home to almost 4 million refugees. Around 70 percent are women and children, and the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside migrant camps.

The European Union relies on Turkey to stop migrants and refugees from trying to reach the bloc’s 27 member nations illegally. Well over a million people entered the EU in 2015, overwhelming Greece and Italy and sparking one of the bloc’s worst political crises.

In 2016, the EU offered Turkey up to 6 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees on its territory, fast-tracked EU membership and visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens if Turkey stopped migrants from trying to depart for Europe. The number of arrivals dropped dramatically.

But in March, Turkish authorities began waving thousands of migrants through to Europe after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sought European help in northern Syria, but the request was refused and he accused the EU of reneging on its promises under the 2016 deal.

EU leaders in turn accused Erdogan of “blackmail” but then promised to review the deal in an effort to end the chaos at Europe’s borders.

According to the European Commission, all 6 billion euros under the EU-Turkey deal has been “committed and contracted, with close to 4 billion euros disbursed.” Part of the money, 2.4 billion euros, was earmarked for humanitarian assistance and has been contracted out.


Turkey: EU extends humanitarian support for refugees

Date: 23/12/2020

The European Commission has extended two humanitarian flagship programmes in Turkey until early 2022. These programmes help over 1.8 million refugees meet their basic needs and will help over 700,000 children to continue their education.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The humanitarian needs of refugees in Turkey persist and are even further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The EU is fully committed to support those in need, as we have done for the past years. I am glad that our flagship programmes help thousands of refugee families have some normality in their daily lives. This is a true demonstration of European solidarity.”

The programmes that were extended until early 2022 are:

  • The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is providing over 1.8 million refugees with monthly cash assistance to meet their basic needs. This is a largest EU funded humanitarian programme ever. It is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent.
  • Conditional Cash Transfers for Education (CCTE), the largest EU-funded humanitarian education programme, providing support to families whose children attend school regularly. It helps over 620,000 refugee children continue their education and will support 700,000 in 2021. The programme is implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent.


EU Signs Final Contracts to Support Refugees in Turkey With Another €6 Billion

Date: 22/12/2020

Under the operational €6 billion budget of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the European Commission has announced that it has completed the final contracts.

The final eight contracts that have been signed, worth €780 million, will help refugees to cover their basic needs like health care, protection, training, municipal infrastructure, employment and business development, reports.

In this regard, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said that the signature of the last eight contracts confirms the EU’s deliveries on its pledges.

“This is an extraordinary achievement. I want to commend the Turkish authorities for their cooperation in this joint effort, especially in the areas of health and education. The European Union will continue to stand by refugees and host communities in Turkey,” the statement reads.

The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), which is known as the most effective humanitarian programme, supports over 1.7 million refugees who live in Turkey. The programme gives financial assistance to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees living in Turkey so that they can meet their essential needs.

“The Conditional Cash Transfers for Education programme (CCTE), the largest EU-funded humanitarian education programme, provides support to families whose children attend school regularly. Over 620,000 refugee children go to school and will support 700,000 in 2021 thanks to this programme,” the statement reads.

More than 750,000 refugee children will be able to have access to school, as more than 365 schools are planned to be built through the EU support.

Up to 3,400, healthcare service staff are employed in a total of 177 migrant health centres.

A total of €98 million of support will be allocated to the most vulnerable refugees, as a response to the Coronavirus crisis in Turkey.

The Facility for refugees combines €3 billion of European Union budget as well as €3 billion of EU Member States contributions.

During 2016-2017 the first tranche of €3 billion was mobilized while during 2018-2019 the second one.

In July, reported that €485 million were allocated for refugees in Turkey, after the European Parliament approved the European Commission’s proposal which was presented on June 3.


Support for EU membership in Turkey is over 80%

Date: 22/12/2020

While Turkey is beginning a new phase of economic and legal reforms, citizens’ support for EU membership was over 80%, according to a survey conducted by Turkey’s Directorate for EU Affairs. The report showed that next year Turkey will have more eagerness for EU membership.

In the survey that is regularly being given to 10 thousand people, the participants were asked, “Would Turkey’s EU membership be a good thing and do you support it?”. 80% of the participants stated that it would be a good thing and that they support it. Among more educated participants, this number has risen to 90%. Another question that was asked was “Do you think Turkey can be an EU member? Does it have the necessary structure and  motivation?”. 60% of the participants said that Turkey can be an EU member if it wants to. Participants also noted that ‘in the current climate’ Turkey would struggle in EU membership.

Turkey’s 2021-2025 National Action Plan has been renewed and the Reform Action Group is expected to meet in the first months of 2021 to accelerate Turkey’s EU membership process.

In the meeting between Turkey and the EU that is going to be held in 2021, updating the 2016 EU-Turkey Deal is said to be a priority.

Ankara will prioritize explaining how Turkey’s membership can contribute to the EU. The arguments are that with Turkey’s EU membership, Europe can find more opportunities by getting closer with Islamic and Eastern communities, increasing communication with their own Muslim populations, grow its economy by investing in Turkey.


Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reacted to Greece about migrants

Date: 22/12/2020

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu qualified Greece’s migration policy as ‘murder’. Soylu called for the EU to interrogate ‘these murders’.

In a tweet, Soylu shared a video of the pushbacks by Greece Coast Guard forces, and tagged the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. He asked, “Will not Greece be questioned for these murders that Frontex has been ignoring?”.


Turkey continues to lend helping hand to people in need, FM Çavuşoğlu says

Date: 21/12/2020

Turkey, as the world's most generous country, continues to lend a helping hand to people in need during the coronavirus pandemic, said Turkey's foreign minister, marking Dec. 20, International Human Solidarity Day.

"As the most generous country in the world, we continue to give our helping hand to the needy people during the outbreak and to be the voice of the oppressed," said Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Twitter Sunday.

He also quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as saying: "Civilization is not a matter of means, but of conscience."

In his tweet, Çavuşoğlu also shared video footage of Turkey's aid efforts.

This September, speaking on the U.N.'s 75th anniversary, Erdoğan said: "As the most generous aid donor country, in terms of the ratio of Turkish assistance to its GDP, we tried to alleviate the problems caused by the pandemic with our available means."

Turkey will continue to implement an entrepreneurial and humanitarian foreign policy in the field and at the table in 2021, Çavuşoğlu said last month during a presentation on the ministry's budget and structure as well as foreign policy goals and priorities at the Plan and Budget Commission of Parliament.


CHP General Vice President Açıkel: Turkey turned into the largest refugee camp in the world

Date: 21/12/2020

CHP General Vice President Fethi Açıkel stated that Turkey has turned into the largest refugee camp in the world due to AKP’s wrong policies and that the problems of refugees and citizens have deepened.

In his evaluation on the International Migrants Day, Açıkel said that Turkey has been living and dealing with the migration crisis for the past 10 years. He reported that the Turkish government’s foreign policy has had a great impact on how the Syrian civil war turned into a humanitarian crisis. He added that the official records show that 3 million 6 thousand Syrian refugees and asylum seekers currently reside in Turkey, but lots of fieldwork studies indicate that this number is above 4 million.

He commented that the government is not taking a transparent approach in its policies regarding migrants and refugees, said, “What is primarily needed is a holistic diagnostic study to deal with the problems comprehensively. However, the government’s non-transparent, uncoordinated, and indifferent attitude towards migration policies both falls short of accommodating the humanitarian needs of refugees and deepens the problems that hosting a large population of refugees causes in the country”.

He emphasized that Syrian refugees live under difficult conditions and are being employed

illegally, and that the 40 million dollars that is allegedly being spent for refugees do not improve the poor conditions of their life standards. Açıkel stated that because of AKP government’s adventurous policies in the Middle East, Turkey has shut the doors of Western countries to its qualified citizens, and has been dragged into the position of a country that receives unqualified migration from the Middle East and Central Asia.


3,174 deaths on worldwide migratory routes in 2020: IOM


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that there were at least 3,174 deaths on migratory routes across the world this year, compared to 5,327 in 2019.

In a statement released on Friday, the IOM said that despite the raging coronavirus pandemic and the related travel restrictions, tens of thousands of people continued to leave their homes and embark on dangerous journeys across deserts and seas, reports Xinhua news agency.

While the overall number of people known to have lost their lives in 2020 was lower than previous years, some routes had seen an increase in fatalities, the IOM said.
It added that at least 593 people had died en route to Spain’s Canary Islands, compared to 210 recorded in 2019 and 45 in 2018.

“The decrease in recorded migrant deaths was not necessarily an indication that the number of lives lost had truly dropped in 2020 as Covid-19 also challenged the ability both to collate data on deaths during migration and monitor specific routes,” Paul Dillon, the spokesperson for IOM, said while addressing a press briefing here on Friday.

According to the latest UN figures, the number of migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019, 51 million more than in 2010.


Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu: Turkey decided to manage migration

Date: 18/12/2020

Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu attended the Migration Council Meeting at Gölbaşı County House. The video prepared for the December 18th International Migration Day by the
Directorate General of Migration Management was shown at the introduction of the event.

Soylu said that a civilization that used to take pride in its Human Rights Declaration now views societies other than itself as being exploitable, disposable, and worthless entities. He added that the historical reality of being a migrant is now considered a societal threat in the 21st century Europe, imprisoned by racism and xenophobia.

Stating that migrants and refugees are facing incomprehensible levels of cruelty in societies that brag about their sensitivity towards human rights, Soylu said,  “A binary world system is being formed with imperialist elites that use death, fear and insecurity for their aims on one hand, and the rest of the world on the other”.

Soylu reminded that Turkey is neighbours with almost all countries that are the sources of migration, and that it has historical, cultural, and religious kinship ties with them beyond being geographically proximal.

He emphasized that as a civilized country, Turkey decided to manage the issue of migration instead of fighting it. Indicating that migration is the indicator of being civilized in the 21st century, he argued that the countries who accept migration and who manage it well will have the advantage. He stated that for countries who ignore this reality, it will be almost impossible to repair the damage when they finally come to terms with it.


Vice President of Turkey Fuat Oktay wrote a message on December 18th International Migrants Day

Date: 18/12/2020

Vice President of Turkey Fuat Oktay tweeted on December 18th International Migrants Day: “The issues concerning the forcefully displaced is not only the problem of our country, but the international community. It should not be forgotten that while lifeboats are being sunk one by one in the Mediterranean, Turkey has been the hope of millions of forcefully displaced people”.

He also shared some information about migrants and refugees in his post. In the image he posted, it showed that the number of migrants in the world is 272 million, the number displaced people are 41 million, and the number of asylum seekers in Turkey is 300 thousand.


EU finalizes contract process for aid benefiting migrants in Turkey

Date: 17/12/2020

The European Union on Thursday announced the finalizing contracting process of 6 billion euros (TL 56.7 billion, $7.3 billion) in aid for migrants hosted by Turkey, focused on nearly 4 million Syrian migrants who fled the war in their home country for safe shelter in Turkey after 2011.

"The EU Delegation to Turkey signs the final eight contracts under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT) this week. Under the contracts, the EU provides 780 million euros in support to refugees in terms of basic needs, health care, protection, municipal infrastructure and vocational and technical education and training, employment and support to private sector, SMEs and entrepreneurship," said the EU Delegation to Turkey in a statement.

In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and to find a solution for the influx of migrants heading to EU countries.

According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian migrants. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also a perk of the agreement. In addition, the customs union between Turkey and the EU was to be updated.

In exchange for these promises, Turkey took responsibility for discouraging migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian migrants living in Turkey. Despite significant developments controlling migration traffic, the EU has not fully delivered on its commitments stated in the deal.

For health care services, the EU is allocating 300 million euros to support the Migrant Health Services in Turkey program and Strengthening Health Care Infrastructure for All program.

The Turkish Family, Labor and Social Services Ministry will also implement two projects "to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable refugees and access of these vulnerable persons, and those from host communities, to protective social services."

A social assistance project will provide 480,000 migrants with cash payments, and the EU is allocating 245 million euros for assistance.

Together with French development agency AFD, the EU is allocating 59 million euros for the improvement of municipal infrastructures focusing on the "construction or the rehabilitation of water, wastewater and solid waste systems."

The EU is allocating 156 million euros in total for development projects under the contracts finalized today.

With an expected budget of 75 million euros, German state development bank KfW "aims to support the refugee and host community adolescents with its Economic and Social Cohesion through Vocational Education Training II project," said the statement, plus 75 million euros to support Syrian and Turkish small- and medium-sized enterprises

Some 6.13 million euros will also go to support the creation of new employment opportunities for Syrians under temporary protection and local host communities, the statement said.

Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, said of the finalization: "I am happy to announce that we put an important milestone behind us and now focus on making sure that the refugees and host communities will benefit from our projects."

Commending Turkey for hosting over 4 million migrants – more than any other country in the world – he added, "The EU will also be prepared to continue providing financial assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey."

Meyer-Landrut also held an online news conference to mark the contract completion with Turkish officials, including Deputy Family, Labor and Social Services Minister Adnan Ertem, Deputy Health Minister Sabahattin Aydın and Halik Afsara, chief coordinator of the FRIT Office in Turkey.

"The geographical position of Turkey makes us either a transit or a host country for many refugees and it continues to be so," Ertem said at the news conference.

"Hosting them under humanitarian conditions is crucial for the continuation of these funds and this assistance," he added.

Ertem said that education and health care services for migrants are crucial.

He added that the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) will be Turkey's main partner in the project.


Turkey, EU should act in solidarity, cooperation against challenges, Kalın tells EU diplomats

Date: 16/12/2020

Turkey’s presidential spokesperson held an online meeting Wednesday with the envoys of member countries in the European Union.

According to a statement by Ibrahim Kalın's office, Turkish-EU ties, regional developments and the fight against terrorism were among the issues discussed in the meeting.

In a detailed assessment of the current situation of relations, Kalın remarked that Turkey and the EU should act in solidarity and cooperation against the challenges brought by regional crises and in crucial problems including terrorism, immigration, Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism.

He also called on the EU to open new chapters in Turkey's accession negotiations into the bloc, as well as to take action in updating the Customs Union agreement and a visa-free travel arrangement for Turkish nationals to the EU.

Underlining that Turkey is willing and ready to take part in a negotiated resolution to its bilateral problems with Greece and in the Eastern Mediterranean region in general, Kalın urged the EU to support and contribute to Ankara’s efforts to turn the Eastern Mediterranean into a “sea of peace.”

Amid recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have upped their pressure on other EU members to impose sanctions on Turkey.

To date, the EU’s current term president, Germany, and most EU members have been reluctant to take such action.

Ankara has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Turkey has sent seismic research ships in recent months to explore for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its own rights in the region, as well as those of the TRNC.


Erdoğan: We want to turn over a new leaf with the EU

Date: 16/12/2020

President Erdoğan stated that Turkey wants to turn over a new leaf with the EU in a phone conversation with the Director of the EU Council Charles Michel.

He said that Turkey imagines its future with the EU and considers each positive step in the EU-Turkey relations as a window for new opportunities.

In his statement, he noted that “the EU-Turkey relations have been imprisoned by the narrow interests of some members, but that Turkey is ready to start having conversations with the EU within the framework of the larger picture and common interests”.

He pointed at the EU-Turkey deal in 2016 as “a tool to draw concrete results from within a positive agenda between Turkey and the EU”, and said that Turkey is hoping for the EU to adopt a considerate and constructive attitude regarding Turkey.


Soylu reacts to Greece Minister of Migration and Asylum for ‘inhumane treatment’ of irregular migrants

Date: 12/12/2020

Regarding the ‘bad treatment’ of Greek Coast Guard officials towards irregular migrants, Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu addressed Greece Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi and said, “Your coast goard forces increase the levels of torture and inhumane treatment towards irregular migrants every day.”

Soylu tagged Mitarachi in his post on Twitter where he shared the video of irregular migrants, handcuffed by Greek Coast Guard officials, being saved by Turkish Coast Guard Directory, with the caption “For you to watch the inhumane actions and pushbacks executed by your forces, aided by Frontex, and ignored by the EU”.

According to the Turkish Coast Guard Directory’s statement, a group of irregular migrants who have been pushed back by Greece to Turkish waters were rescued near the shores of Tekağaç, Aydın on December 6th.

The rescued migrants have stated that they were stuck in the Farmakonisi island for 2 days. Then they were taken to the Greek Coast Guard ship in two groups with men being taken separately from women and children. The men have been beaten and kept in the ship while the women and children were put in a lifeboat to be sent to Turkish waters.

In another statement by irregular migrants rescued on December 8th near Bodrum, Muğla, they were again separated into two groups, and the Greek forces beat the migrants, took their wallets, cell phones and other valuable belongings, and that migrants had scars on their bodies from the beatings.


EU plans to hit Turkey with more sanctions over Med drilling

Date: 10/12/2020

European Union leaders early Friday gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in Mediterranean waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.

“Regrettably, Turkey has engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU, EU member states and European leaders,” they said in a statement from their summit in Brussels.

At their last summit in October, the leaders offered “a positive political EU-Turkey agenda” to Ankara, including trade and customs benefits and the prospect of more funds to help Turkey manage Syrian refugees on its territory if it halts its “illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean.

The leaders said that offer remains on the table if Turkey is prepared to enter into a “genuine partnership” and begin a real dialogue with the EU, and if Ankara shows a willingness to resolve differences through dialogue and in accordance with international law.

But given the lack of a response so far, they invited the 27-nation bloc’s ministers “to adopt additional listings” for sanctions “concerning restrictive measures in view of Turkey’s unauthorized drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

The leaders told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to draw up a report on the state of EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations and to suggest how to proceed, including on widening sanctions, and submit it to the leaders by the time they hold their summit in March next year.

Pressure had been mounting for the EU to act, given its previous threats and Turkey’s refusal to respond.

“The stakes are very precise, very clear: the credibility of the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said ahead of the meeting. He recalled that the leaders said in October that there would be consequences if Turkey “continued its delinquent behavior.”

“So now, it will be seen whether, as Europe, we are really credible in what we ourselves have agreed to,” Mitsotakis said.

The 27 EU countries are split over how best to handle Turkey. France and Cyprus have pushed for tougher measures like economic sanctions, but other countries are concerned about further undermining the country’s already ravaged economy and destabilizing the region.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brushed off the threat of sanctions and accused the EU, which Turkey is a candidate to join although its membership talks are blocked, of acting “dishonestly” and failing to keep its promises.

“Any decision to impose sanctions against Turkey won’t be of great concern to Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters.

Just over a year ago, the EU set up a system for imposing travel bans and asset freezes on people, companies or organizations linked to drilling activities “which have not been authorized by the Republic of Cyprus, within its territorial sea or in its exclusive economic zone or on its continental shelf.”

Two officials are currently on the list: the Vice-President of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and the deputy director of its Exploration Department. The idea is to add more people or some organizations to the list.

It’s unclear anyway whether more sanctions would slow Turkey down. Steps were taken in the past — the slashing of funds meant to prepare Turkey for EU membership and the virtual freezing of its accession talks — yet Ankara has only become more vocal.

On top of that, Erdogan has shown his willingness to encourage migrants and refugees from Syria to cross the border into Greece and on into Europe, which remains deeply destabilized by the arrival of well over 1 million people in 2015, to ensure that his demands are well understood.

Turkey also plays a military role in Libya, a main jumping-off point in Africa for migrants hoping to reach Europe.


Exclusive-EU to toughen sanctions on Turkish drilling - draft statement

Date: 09/12/2020

The European Union will impose sanctions on more Turkish individuals and companies responsible for drilling in contested waters in the Mediterranean, according to a draft statement prepared for EU leaders to agree at a summit on Thursday.

If agreed, the EU will “prepare additional listings” on the basis of a sanctions list already in place since 2019 and “if need be, work on the extension” of its scope, according to the draft statement seen by Reuters.

Such sanctions would be among the more conservative measures available to EU leaders, who vowed in October to use “all instruments” to pressure Turkey to stop exploring for hydrocarbons off the coast of Cyprus and Greece.

France had voiced support for “sectorial” sanctions on the Turkish economy. But imposing them on a NATO ally and EU candidate country is seen by Germany, Spain and Italy as a step too far that would put Turkey in the same camp as Russia, which is viewed as hostile to the bloc.

The hydrocarbons dispute is part of wider issues with Turkey including the divided island of Cyprus and Turkey’s foreign policy in Libya and Syria, which the United States and the EU say undermines Western goals.

However, Turkey’s role as a host for Syrian migrants fleeing civil war who would otherwise seek refuge in the EU limits European appetite to punish Ankara, diplomats say.

The draft statement also sought to delay retaliation, saying the European Commission and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell should prepare “options on how to proceed” for the next EU summit in March.

“The EU will seek to coordinate on these matters with the U.S.”, the draft said, something diplomats said was a recognition of hopes for closer foreign policy ties with Washington once U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

Negotiations over the two-page statement are still ongoing and Greece and Cyprus, which accuse Turkey of drilling for hydrocarbons off its continental shelf, believe the sanctions do not go far enough.

“We welcome additional listings,” a Cypriot diplomat said. “We would like to see preparations for targeted sectoral measures at a later stage, in February or March, should Turkey’s behaviour not change,” the envoy said.


EU’s security depends heavily on Turkey, Hungarian FM Szijjarto says

Date: 08/12/2020

The European Union’s security depends heavily on Turkey, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stated Tuesday, underlining that Ankara is a strategic partner to the EU in many fields.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Szijjarto stated that cooperation between the EU and Turkey should be maintained and that Hungary is ready to help establish a dialogue between Ankara and the bloc. He said the EU owes thanks to Turkey for hosting more than 4 million migrants; if it were not for Turkey, hundreds of thousands of migrants would end up at the borders of the EU and pour into the Balkans.

Besides bilateral relations, Çavuşoğlu said, regional issues on the EU agenda were also discussed in a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart. Szijjarto visited Turkey after he attended the EU foreign ministers' meeting the day before in Brussels. EU leaders will discuss the future of Turkey-EU relations at a summit this week.

Hungary supports Turkey’s EU accession and further improvement of Turkey-EU relations and is a friendly country that contributes to the process, Çavuşoğlu said.

“We want to enhance our relations with the EU,” Çavuşoğlu reiterated, saying that relations have had their ups and downs originating from both Ankara and Brussels but that effort is needed to overcome problems with dialogue.

He reiterated that the EU, whether right or wrong, supports member states in the name of solidarity and that it is wrong to differentiate between an EU member country and a country that is in an accession process with the bloc. Turkey’s top diplomat underlined that the EU must take on the role of an honest mediator in resolving problems with Greece.

Szijjarto stressed that the range of disputes between Turkey and the EU should be left behind and that the bloc should act with mutual respect in line with international laws. “We should do away with double standards and hypocrisy,” Szijjarto said, indicating that Hungary works to ensure dialogue between Turkey and some EU member states in disputes with Ankara.


Turkey’s place is in Europe: EU lawmaker

Date: 07/12/2020

A key EU lawmaker on Monday said even small progress in Turkey-EU relations offers a window of opportunity for dialogue.

“The very recent downturn in Turkey-EU relations after the geopolitical developments in the Eastern Mediterranean could be gradually reversed through some moves from each side,” Ryszard Czarnecki, the head of the EU-Turkey Friendship Group in the European Parliament, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

“First, the EU should acknowledge the fact that one of Turkey’s main targets in the region is to be a recognized player in the East Med energy competition and not to feel 'surrounded' by the members of the East-Med Gas Forum (Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine).

"Turkey already offered to convene an international conference to discuss the geopolitical developments in the region. Moreover, Turkey signaled that it is ready for a constructive engagement,” he said.

He urged each side to take steps towards developing a positive agenda consisting of a “modernized Customs Union” as well as further cooperation on migration, visa liberalization, and enhanced people-to-people contacts.

“Even a small progress in Turkey-EU relations offers a window of opportunity for dialogue and negotiation between the parties on broader issues,” he underlined.

Czarnecki said the most realistic way forward would be the “Customs Union modernization process”, which would rekindle a rules-based approach and restart Turkey’s process of harmonization toward the EU.


MEP Marton Gyöngyösi: It is much more difficult to find a solution without Turkey

Date: 06/12/2020

Hungarian Member of the European Parliament Marton Gyöngyösi said, “Turkey is one of the most important allies of the European Union for geopolitics, trade and politics. The migration crisis a few years ago reminded how significant Turkey is for the EU and that this issue cannot be resolve without Turkey. It is clear that without Turkey, it is much more difficult to find a solution”.

Stating that the EU-Turkey relations could be much better, he added, “We need to focus on issues that can make the relations easier and stronger. The current tensions in Eastern Mediterranean are increasing tension. A substantial solution is urgently needed”.

Pointing out that a solution for the Eastern Mediterranean might require more involvement by the international community, Gyögyösi commented, “At the root of the problems regarding the Eastern Mediterranean lies the divided Cyprus island. If the Cyprus issue can be resolved, the resolution of the issues of sea borders and resources in the Eastern Mediterranean will be much faster”.

Gyögyösi emphasized that the conflicts between the EU and Turkey should not turn into an ideological struggle. He also encouraged Turkey to be clear about its future aims about the EU. He said, “If Turkey wants to join the EU, it should accept the conditions and work towards them. If Turkey gave up on this aim, that is also alright. The UK also found a different solution. More EU countries in the future might prefer that as well and that is okay. However, honesty is key in this matter. If we know what the other party wants, we can work towards developing relations in that way”.


Research conducted in 11 countries: Migration policies are unsuccessful in Europe and its neighbours

Date: 06/12/2020

The research conducted in Greece, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, Poland, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey called “Horizon 2020 RESPOND”[1] reports that migration policies are increasingly turned into security issues.

The study investigated migration and asylum management in 11 countries over three years and concluded that migration policies are not successful in the EU member countries.

Swedish Uppsala University directed the project, and the study’s Turkey team was comprised of scholars from Istanbul Bilgi University, Ozyegin University and Istanbul-Sweden Research Institute.

The study showed that there are great legal and practical loopholes in the protection of migrants and refugees, that violence against refugees and migrants are increasingly normalized, and EU actors such as Frontex and European Asylum Support Office (EASO) disregard international human rights norms and the rule of law.

A detailed analysis was presented as a result of interviews with 540 migrants and 220 actors in the migration issue, a survey with more than 1600 Syrian refugees in Turkey and Sweden, documents, and narrative analyses.

According to the results, there is a general deflection from the welcoming approach. The open door policy applied by Turkey and Lebanon, and the welcoming attitude by Germany at the beginning of the global migration crisis seems to be weakened. All of the changes made after 2015 narrows down access to protective systems by bringing limitations and restrictions to existing standards of rights.

Border control policies have been again nationalized as exemplified by the implementation of internal border controls in the EU despite Schengen.

Research results indicate that military and paramilitary actors have become prominent since 2015. While Austria, Greece, Hungary, Lebanon, Poland and Turkey apply new physical barriers (walls, fences, dogs, digital gadgets etc.) and “fast-track border procedures”, Italy and Greece apply procedural barriers such as “hot spot analyses” for controlling access to their borders.


EU: Cat and mouse game with Turkey must stop

Date: 05/12/2020

The European Union (EU) has called for the "cat and mouse game" with Turkey to stop, adding that it wants a "more stable and more predictable" relationship with the Islamic majority country.

Speaking at a press conference, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Friday: "We need to work together to have that predictable relationship and we're going to use all channels."

He added: "I think that the cat and mouse game needs to end. In October, after a very dense and strategic high-level exchange, we defined a very positive offer to Turkey, we extended our hands."

In order to make progress on issues related to the economy, migration and energy, Turkey should end "unilateral provocations, hostile statements," Michel urged.

"Since October, things have not been very positive. Since that time, we've seen that there have been unilateral acts that have taken place, a hostile rhetoric has been expressed," according to Michel.


Turkey’s EU accession to benefit both sides, help resolve problems, deputy FM says

Date: 03/12/2020

Turkey’s accession to the European Union would benefit both sides and it would also be helpful in resolving existing problems, Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı said Wednesday.

Turkey is a part of Europe but has not seen enough support from the EU, Kaymakçı said, speaking at the TRT World Forum panel titled "New Realities and Interstate Relations After COVID-19" organized by Turkey's English-language public broadcaster.

Turkey has the longest history with the union on the road to accession, including the longest process of negotiations. The country signed an association agreement with the EU in 1964, which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually become a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other applicants.

Recently, however, Turkey has been preparing a new initiative to accelerate the accession process to the EU.

Kaymakçı stated that the European Council resolutions in October that intended for Turkey to meet the demands of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration were unacceptable.

Members of the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution expressing "full solidarity" with Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration against Turkey's actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish Foreign Ministry in a written statement following the resolution said the decision was taken solely for the sake of solidarity among EU members and to serve the "selfish" interests of some member countries.

"We are waiting for a signal from Greece and the Greek Cypriots to solve the problems. You witnessed them rejecting the Annan Plan (the U.N. proposal to end the crisis) in Cyprus. You all know that tiny islands or cliffs in the Aegean and Mediterranean cannot have the same rights as the main continent," Kaymakçı pointed out.

"We are open to dialogue and negotiation, but Greece is avoiding dialogue. If the EU ignores all of this and continues to move in the same direction, we will all face the consequences," he added.

There has been increased friction between Turkey and its Eastern Mediterranean neighbors, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, over offshore energy explorations rights in the past few months. Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Eastern Mediterranean, has sent drillships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also have rights in the region.

Turkey frequently voiced that the EU unfairly backs Greece in a maritime dispute that stretches back decades but only gained added importance with the discovery of large natural gas deposits in recent years.


Turkey dismisses Greek media claims on irregular migrants

Date: 03/12/2020

Turkey's Coast Guard Command on Thursday dismissed Greek media reports claiming Turkish officials did not help stranded irregular migrants heading toward the island of Lesbos.

A statement by the command said a boat was dispatched for the group of irregular migrants upon their request for help Wednesday.

"Upon a call for help that was made at 04:14 a.m. (0114 GMT) on Dec. 02 to Turkish Coast Guard units by the said group of irregular migrants, a search for the position of the irregular migrants was conducted and the nearest Turkish Coast Guard boat (TUR CG 907) was immediately dispatched to the area," said the statement.

"However, it was detected by the Turkish Coast Guard boat, which arrived at the scene of the incident at 05:10 a.m. (0210 GMT), that the migrants' boat in question was within the Greek waters," it added.

Stating that a Greek Coast Guard vessel was close by, a call for help was made but no response was received.

"Nevertheless, Turkish assets continued to stay and wait within the Turkish territorial waters until 05:50 a.m. (0220 GMT) so as to be ready for any emergency case," it added.

The Turkish Coast Guard Command also released video footage of the incident. It also released radar records.

"Respecting the principles of human rights and laws, Turkish Coast Guard Command is always ready, 7 days 24 hours to help anyone who is in distress/in need of any help at sea."

Separately, İsmail Çataklı, deputy interior minister, said on Twitter: "Greece is trying to cover up crimes with false information from the Migration Minister causing deaths in the Aegean Sea with inhumane practices."

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to what it says is a blatant abuse of human rights.


Global cooperation discussed at TRT World Forum 2020

Date: 01/12/2020

Vice President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas attended the TRT World Forum 2020. In his speech, he said “We acknowledge the significance of the role Turkey has been playing in migration and migration flows. We will continue to support and collaborate with Turkey who is hosting the most number of refugees in the world”.

He also commented, “I believe the EU needs to have a comprehensive framework on the migration crisis. It is incomprehensible that a union that equals the 25% of the global GDP and who has great impacts in many issues still does not have a concrete policy on migration.”

He stressed that the EU has prepared a New Pact on Migration and Asylum on September 23rd. About the contents of the pact he said, “The new pact will have three main aspects. The first one foresees closer collaboration with our neighbours and especially with countries on the migration route. The second one will search for ways to make our border and coast guard security policies stronger. The third one will be concerned with building a system of more collaboration and burden-sharing. It would not be fair to countries of first entry to carry all of the burden”.


Merkel: Turkey deserves respect with regard to migration

Date: 30/11/2020

Speaking at a virtual conference on Germany's EU presidency on the return of Turkish vessel to port, President of Germany Angela Merkel stated, “Turkey hosts the most number of refugees. In this respect, Turkey deserves respect. We should keep supporting Turkey.”

She said that the return of the Turkish vessel, Oruc Reis, to Turkish ports is a good sign that will be taken into consideration at the European Summit that will take place December 10th-11th.


EU border chief urged to quit over migrant pushback claims

Date: 01/12/2020

European Union lawmakers lashed out Tuesday at the head of Frontex over allegations that the border and coast guard agency helped illegally stop migrants or refugees entering Europe, calling for his resignation and demanding an independent inquiry.

The lawmakers grilled Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri over an investigation in October by media outlets Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said that video and other publicly available data suggest Frontex “assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea.”

The report said personnel from the agency, which monitors and polices migrant movements around Europe’s borders, were present at another incident and “have been in the vicinity of four more since March.” Frontex launched an internal probe after the news broke.

“In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign,” senior Socialist lawmaker Kati Piri said in a statement after the parliamentary civil liberties committee hearing. “There are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.”