Turkey’s wall on Syria border sharply reduces illegal crossings
Sevil Erkuş - GAZİANTEP/KİLİS
REUTERS photoA concrete wall built to stop illegal crossings along Turkey’s border with Syria in the provinces of Hatay, Kilis and Gaziantep has dramatically reduced attempts to stage illegal crossings and conduct border smuggling, a Turkish colonel responsible for border security has stated.
The total 2,044 detected smuggling attempts in 2015 fell to just 77 in 2016 in his 169-kilometer area of responsibility, Colonel Alparslan Kılınç from the First Border Regiment Command told reporters in Kilis.
The number of detected illegal crossings has decreased 45 percent, from a total of 12,183 in 2015 when clashes were intense on the Syrian side of the border to 8,531 in 2016, Kılınç said.
In the same section of the Syrian border, there were 2,423 smuggling attempts in 2013, 3,474 in 2014, 2,044 in 2015, and 77 in 2016. However, in the first two months of 2017 there have been only four smuggling attempts, Kılınç stated.
In 2016, 210 third country nationals, mostly made up of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members but also including 49 Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) members, were captured while attempting illegal crossing in his regiment area, the colonel stated.
Work on the construction of modular walls on Turkey’s border with Syria is ongoing. In some sections, the area just behind the wall construction is mined and protected by ditches and reinforced cage wire barriers. In other areas there are patrol units of border guards, backed by first and second degree forbidden military zones.
Overall, a modular concrete wall is planned to be built across 826 kilometers of Turkey’s 900-kilometer border with Syria. After works conducted by the Prime Ministry’s Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ), more than 350 km of the wall has been completed so far.
A wall was constructed in a 90 km section of the border in the 1st Border Regiment Command, while a 79 km section is planned to be completed within three months, Kılınç also stated, adding that 11 old-style outposts will be renewed.
He said the temporary military security zones also contributed to preventing illegal crossings and smugglers.
The border is also monitored by daytime and thermal cameras installed in towers reaching 20 meters in height, while security beyond the wall is monitored through cameras in towers mounted on armored vehicles.
Any fugitives trying to cross the border with stairs or tunnels are caught by security forces, Kılınç said.
Kurdish border village under surveillance
Meanwhile, a border village across from Kilis province, Meydan-e Akbez, is under surveillance of one Turkish border outpost. Officials say that nearly 20 YPG fighters are stationed in the town, which has a population of 3,000.