Pazarkule. Turkey. March 1, 2020. Yesterday we learned that a friend from Ankara Migrant Solidarity Network was prevented from passing through a police checkpoint, and the photos he/she took were investigated. Parking our cars earlier, in the fields next to the road worked for us though. Although we don’t know how we seemed, no one forced us to leave. But we decided to be more careful especially while working on photo and video materials. But today, they took all the cars behing the police checkpoint, including ours. For now we have to leave the field. No one is allowed except the migrants and authorities now.
Originally publshed by GÖÇMEN DAYANIŞMASI.
The road that went through the border was empty. There were only migrants who walked across the border and buses which came empty and turned back full. In order to understand where the buses were going, we went to their departure area. We observed that some officials were saying to the people: “Don’t wait here. Even if our government opened the borders, the Greek side did not. With these buses, you can go to the riverside (Meric) without paying a fee, and from the riverside, there are boats that will take you to the Greek side only for 20 liras for each person”. Most of the people did not believe them. The official insisted: “We know the safest way. The river is only 20 meters wide. And then you have to walk 3 kilometers to arrive in the closest village.” When the buses were full of convinced people, they left.
We left the buses after talking with some of the people. When looking across the border door, there are fields on the left side and a forest area on the right side. Most of the migrants were inside the forest area, in which there were huge trees that looked like Baobabs. They were using the dry branches of these trees to light fires. The view of hundreds of fires, all surrounded by people is quite striking.
The owner of the field that we parked our car next to, came to see us. The crops in his field were damaged by the people that passed through the fields. Also the plastic cover on the crops was taken away by the migrants in order to be used against the wind and rain. The sympathetic attitude of the farmer to the migrants despite his obvious material loss, and sharing what was left of the crops as well as some other food in his storage was worth appreciation.
We came through a group of Afghan migrants. They had started a little party singing songs together in front of the fire. One of them told us that one of the singing people were quite famous in Afghanistan. After some time we went by another party started by Eritreans. The songs that they sang all together on African rhythms were impressive. On Saturday night the whole forest was like a festival field.
We went to our car to get some rest and start preparations for cooking. We cleaned the materials an put up the stove. We cooked soup, trying to avoid attention since we didn’t know what reaction it would have. Since it was very crowded and there was no food in the area, we set up the service table far from the camping area and distributed around 150 cups of soup. There happened many conversations around the table that was put up late at night in the cold.
In the morning the coming of other migrants intensified. The numbers of the police and the soldiers were also increased. The people that we talked to, told us they decided to come after seeing on the TV that the borders were open. Some of them left their jobs, giving up the payments that they earned, gathering their family by the night.
We reached our friends from Edirne City Council, which we were able to connect with after yesterdays report. But they were stopped at the police checkpoint and blocked entering with some other reporters. They went to Doyuran village, the area around the river in which the migrants were allegedly taken by the buses. There they came across an Afghani group of 60 people, just waiting by the riverside. There was no vehicle to take them across the river and also there were men with guns on the other side. In this circumstance, the real destination of the buses is unknown.
In the morning we talked with some friends who came from Istanbul. The most important part of our short informing was the necessity to be careful, especially working on photo/video materials. Shortly after our conversations, we learned that two of these friends were detained while making interviews and taken out of the border area.
Four other reporters who came from Istanbul were prevented from entering the area. They are waiting at around Karaagac village.
Now the crowd is so much bigger since it is also the weekend. People keep coming. We could say that the number of migrants around the border is up to 10 thousand, without exaggeration. The tension is high. Tear and sound bombs are constantly thrown by the Greek side. The screaming and gun shootings are normalised. We can not get too close to the border. But we can get the news from people passing through.
Even if there are thousands of people, there is no presence of any NGOs, government or health organisations that actively works in the field. There is a minibus that belongs to Turkish Kızılay. The only things in the boxes that were written UNHCR and distributed there were water and chocolates. There is no hot food anywhere in the field.
There is no access to water in the field. People should walk to the village 2,5 kilometers away in order to find it, and since the checkpoint in the entrance prevents the entrance of Turkish citizens and the exiting of migrants, people walk through the fields around the checkpoint. But it is impossible for them to reach the village. There is only one toilet van in the area, and that arrived this morning.
The weather is incredibly cold at night. In this cold that is felt even in the car, people are sleeping in the fields without covers. They look for plastic covers from the fields in order to cover themselves.
We also heard that a woman gave birth at the checkpoint, and there was no medical support.
These two days we did not make expenses. We would like our friends who wanted to support us to support their local solidarity networks against borders. Also, it is very hard to bring any materials inside. People who want to support are directed to organisations like Kızılay and AFAD. However, this exodus seems to go on for a while. We will try to update as new necessities arise.
There is also the issue of voluntourism, which makes things harder. We expect people who want to come here to show the attention and importance, knowing where they are coming and what the conditions could be. We must sadly express that our exiting field close border fences were caused by the slack attitude of some of the people who were in the buffer zone.
Even if we are out of the fences, we think being present here and around the area is important. For all this week we were able to organise the presence of at least 2-3 of us each day. Friends who would like to get involved in this rotation can communicate with us.
No Border Edirne/Pazarkule, March 1, 2020
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