Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Turkey Moves to Clamp Down on Border, Long a Revolving Door

DEC. 22, 2015

IZMIR, Turkey — The Turkish Coast Guard has stepped up nighttime patrols on the choppy, wintry waters of the Aegean Sea, seizing rafts full of refugees fleeing war for Europe and sending them back to Turkey.

Down south, at the border with Syria, Turkey is building a concrete wall, digging trenches, laying razor wire and at night illuminating vast stretches of land in an effort to cut off the flow of supplies and foreign fighters to the Islamic State.

On land and at sea, Turkey’s borders, long a revolving door of refugees, foreign fighters and the smugglers who enable them, are at the center of two separate yet interlinked global crises: the migrant tide convulsing Europe and the Syrian civil war that propels it.

Accused by Western leaders of turning a blind eye to these critical borders, Turkey at last seems to be getting serious about shoring them up. Under growing pressure from Europe and the United States, Turkey has in recent weeks taken steps to cut off the flows of refugees and of foreign fighters who have helped destabilize a vast portion of the globe, from the Middle East to Europe.

Smugglers who used to make a living helping the Islamic State bring foreign fighters into Syria say that it is increasingly difficult — though still not impossible — to do so now. Border guards who once fired warning shots, they say, now shoot to kill.

(More here.)


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