Illegal migrants change route from water to land

Illegal migrants take their chances to make it to Europe, crossing from Turkey to Greece through the northwestern province of Edirne.

October 19, 2010, Tuesday/ 17:38:00
Illegal migrants attempting to reach Europe have begun to change their routes while crossing from Turkey into Greece.Taking their chances to make it to Europe, they used to cross the River Meriç, which forms a natural border between Turkey and Greece and runs through the northwestern province of Edirne. But many have chosen to take the land route instead, as the water route is difficult and dangerous. Some migrants have drowned in the river. They first arrive in Karaağaç, Edirne province, before attempting to reach Greece if they manage to evade capture by Turkish police.

The police have established checkpoints on the Meriç and Süvari bridges, which connect the city of Edirne with Karaağaç. Officers stop suspicious motorists and pedestrians to verify their identity. This has led to around 500 migrants and guides being detained in only the last two months.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Turkey spokesman Metin Çorabatır told the Anatolia news agency that Turkey gives a temporary refugee document to migrants who come from outside Europe.

“Some refugees find the period of time they have to wait to be placed in a third country to be long or are unable to pay the cost of residence [money paid to Turkey per person for six months during their temporary stay in the country]. Thus, they may attempt to go abroad illegally,” he said.

Çorabatır said some refugees choose to pay human smugglers instead to help them more quickly reach a third country.

While highlighting that the cost of securing a residence permit must be eliminated, Çorabatır said: “It cannot be removed immediately because it requires a change in law. But Interior Minister Beşir Atalay has already sent a notice to governors’ offices instructing them to not ask refugees for the cost of a residence permit if they cannot pay.”

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