120K+ refugees stopped at Turkey-Iran border in 2021

The work carried out by Turkish security forces on the eastern Van-Iran border has prevented more than 120,000 irregular migrants from crossing the boundary this year.

In Van, which shares the longest border with neighboring Iran, the construction of a border wall was initiated to prevent illegal entries into the country, smuggling activities and terrorist infiltration attempts. Most recently, construction was suspended due to adverse weather conditions.

So far, 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the 64-kilometer wall have been completed, and a 235-kilometer trench has been dug along the border. The construction of some of the 103 planned optical towers – 45 for communication and 58 for surveillance – on the 64-kilometer border of the Çaldıran district of Van has also been commissioned.

The security forces increased their measures on the border and prevented more than 120,000 irregular migrants from entering the country this year with their heightened surveillance of the region, aided by thermal cameras, sensors and binoculars, as they carried out constant patrols in armored vehicles. They also arrested 15,000 people at the provincial borders using the same security measures.

Security forces caught 1,904 suspects who were found to be smuggling immigrants. Some 880 vehicles and five boats used to smuggle migrants were also seized.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said that they took serious measures both physically and technically on the border.

Bilmez also said that the remaining 24-kilometer section of the wall will be completed in the spring.

Noting that the demining efforts in the region have come to an end, Bilmez said: “I hope that the 231-kilometer section with Iran will be tendered this winter, and we will start working in stages in the spring. Trench digging was carried out on the border. A 235-kilometer trench was dug. These trenches are 4 meters (13 feet) deep and 4 meters wide. The trench exits were blocked with razor wire.”

“We have seen that the measures we have taken at our border have been mirrored in Afghanistan and Iran. Iran started to protect its eastern borders thanks to the measures we took,” he added.

Faced with a potential migrant wave due to the instability in Afghanistan, Turkey has maximized measures on its eastern border. Turkey is continuing efforts to bolster the security of its border with Iran to prevent any new influx of migrants. The beefed-up border measures in Turkey, which already hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and is a stopover for many migrants trying to reach Europe, began as the Taliban started advancing in Afghanistan and took over Kabul.

Authorities say there are 182,000 registered Afghan migrants in Turkey and up to an estimated 120,000 more unregistered ones. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged European countries to take responsibility in the event of an influx, warning that Turkey had no intention of becoming “Europe’s migrant storage unit.”

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum-seekers attempting to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution. Concerns have risen over a possible spike in migrants from Afghanistan due to the United States’ pullout from the country and the following surge of Taliban attacks. Turkey has made it clear that it will not bear the burden of the migration crises experienced as a result of the decisions of third countries.