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Notes from #Pazarkule / #Evros, the Fourth Day

03.03.2020 Evros       

Pazarkule. Turkey. March 3, 2020. For our Report on Day 4, firstly we would like to highlight the importance of shifts and rotation to sustain our activities. We suggest that those who are willing to take part in the coordination could be communicated through a single contact.

  Originally publiehd by GÖÇMEN DAYANIŞMASI.

As the shift team for Day 4, we left Istanbul at midnight. We were stopped at the police checks twice on the way, first 28 km away from Edirne at 03.20 am, and then on the Meric Bridge at 03.50 am. At the first check, we were asked if there were any migrants in the car. At the second one, besides the same question mentioned above, the officers asked our names and destination. We told them that we were driving to Karaagac and headed to the current team at the field who were waiting for us.

When we woke up in the morning, we walked through the dirt road from Karaagac village to the first control spot at Pazarkule to observe the situation on the field. Unlike the previous days, the field was completely surrounded by police barriers. The entrances to the border crossing and buffer zone were controlled by setting up a single entrance, and it was no longer possible for us to enter or leave the zone through the surrounding plains. We could no longer enter the buffer zone and point zero where we managed to enter on Day 2. We think that the new setting here was due to the official visits to the border crossing along with a more general intention to control the area. 

While walking to the area, we made a phone call to Dr. Ertugrul Tanrıkulu, who is the Deputy Mayor of Edirne and City Council President. We informed him about our intention to serve free soup at the zone. He told us that any aid by individuals was prohibited by the Governor and AFAD, and that the Directorate General of Migration was the only organization allowed to distribute aid beyond the checkpoint. He also informed us that all individual or institutional aid sent from different parts of the country are being collected at the Edirne Chamber of Medicine under the coordination of City Council. These aids are being transferred to AFAD and the Directorate General of Migration regularly to be distributed in the field. The contacts are available on the website for sending aid. 

Under these circumstances, we realized that the most reasonable spot for serving soup would be the area situated at the crossroads of Karaagac Village before the checkpoint where there is an active movement of migrants entering and leaving. Our friends from Women’s Defense Network that we met at the checkpoint told us that there is a group of migrants in Doyran village, 25 km south of Edirne on the shore of Meric river, and that the mukhtar (local authority) is distributing aid themselves, and said that they were also heading to this village. Then we decided to go to the village they mentioned to check if that would be an alternative location to serve soup. 

When we arrived in Doyran, we encountered about 150-200 migrants scattering over the field in small groups, some of them with tents, in an area of approximately 5 acres surrounded by poplar trees on the banks of the Meriç River. There were also many journalists shooting in the field. While entering the field, two UAV live broadcasts also attracted our attention. There were also several vehicles distributing clothes to the children. We approached one of the pick-up vehicles and asked who they were. They said that they came individually from the Gazi neighborhood. There were other vehicles as well that were distributing food in the area. Meanwhile, there was a completely different environment where we heard that nine journalists were taken into custody the day before. The situation gave us the impression that it was introduced as a planned scene. We decided that this place was not suitable for a soup distribution point.

To summarize what the migrants told us in Doyran, many of them are aware that they will not be able to pass through this point. Still, they are also pessimistic about returning since they left everything behind and do not believe that they could re-establish their life there again. One of the people said, despite knowing the danger of crossing the border, “I will try tomorrow, or I will come back if not.”

Another friend with whom we talked on our way to Karaağaç from Doyran said that they heard that there was a group of migrants at Edirne Bus Terminal. So, we also decided to look there. There were about 200 migrants around the station in small groups. Unlike Doyran, we have not seen journalists here, neither police nor gendarme. Our friends with whom we have been communicating told us that they would distribute soup and food there. Since we thought that their presence would be enough, we returned to our caravan in Karaağaç to start soup distribution at the junction in front of the Pazarkule checkpoint.

When we arrived at the checkpoint at 20:00, we encountered cars selling blankets and tarps at a price much higher than that of those which we saw on the way to the junction. On the other road leading up to the crossroads, commercial buses were bringing migrants to the area one after the other. There were live broadcast vehicles in front of the checkpoint. While approximately 12,000 migrants were waiting under challenging conditions in the area, only newly arrived migrants were entering from the checkpoint. Journalists were kept miles away from the migrants in Pazarkule. They were not allowed to pass through the checkpoint, as they were crosschecking identities of those who tried to cross the point as in one we saw in the village of Doyran. We heard that even journalists who have hidden their identity among migrants are detained when they are noticed.

After informing the gendarme at the checkpoint, we started to settle our kitchen by fixing the caravan at the most active place of the junction. We started our preparation for the soup with two Iranian migrants A. and R., whom we met there and quickly became friends. As A. is a world cuisine chef, we cooked delicious lentil soup and started to distribute. The table, where we distributed soup, had quickly turned into a small assembly. 

In solidarity,

No Border Pazarkule/Edirne, March 4, 2020.

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