Ankara raises wall on Iranian border to stop migration and smuggling

The chief goal is to stop influx of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban. A barrier of three-metre high and two-metre wide modules weighing seven tonnes. The security forces are also carrying out de-mining activities. Governor of Van: 55,000 irregular migrants stopped in 2021. 

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Ankara is building a concrete wall along the border with Iran, in an attempt to stop the illegal entry of economic migrants into the country, the trafficking of human lives and smuggling activities. In recent days, the Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of Afghan refugees fleeing from the Taliban, a phenomenon that has been described as "worrying" and "increasing".

The border between Turkey and Iran is about 295 km long. Local sources report that the wall is built of blocks (or modules) three metres high and two metres wide, weighing seven tonnes each, and extends from the border of the eastern province of Van to Dogubayazit in Agri province and down to Yuksekova in Hakkari province. It is also supported by 110 kilometres of trenches and 103 'smart' fibre-optic surveillance towers. 

The construction of a barrier along the border comes at a time of increasing migration from Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken advantage of the US withdrawal to wrest control of much of the territory. So far, the installation of a three-kilometre section of the modular wall has been completed and a 110-kilometre-long ditch has been dug, in addition to the construction of 76 monoblocks. At the same time, the security forces are conducting demining activities along the border before proceeding further with the construction. 

The newspaper Cumhuriyet reports that Lake Van in eastern Turkey has become a 'sea of refugees' and that the number of refugees in the country has reached unsustainable levels, justifying the anger and concern of the population. Hence the clampdown imposed by the authorities in Ankara who, in recent times, have repelled several groups of migrants along the eastern border, effectively preventing them from entering the country illegally. 

Emin Bilmez, governor of the eastern province of Van, emphasises that "this year alone we have caught and processed more than 55,000 irregular migrants at our borders". These are joined by 783 traffickers who facilitate illegal crossings, 300 of whom have been arrested. These figures refer to the period from January to July 2021; in the whole of 2020, 599 traffickers were prosecuted, a lower number than that recorded in the first six months of the current year.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at least 270,000 Afghans have become internally displaced within their country since January, bringing the number of people forced to leave their homes to over 3.5 million. Turkey is also the country hosting the largest number of refugees in the world: currently 3.6 million Syrians, plus 320,000 refugees of other nationalities.