İpsala border keeps all the abandoned things

İpsala border keeps all the abandoned things

Wilco van Herpen Hürriyet Daily News
İpsala border keeps all the abandoned things

İpsala is a town and district of Edirne Province in northwestern Turkey. It is the location of one of the main border checkpoints between Greece and Turkey.

I have been to Europe via the İpsala border so many times, especially during the first years of my stay in Turkey. In those days I did not yet have a residence permit, so every three months I had to leave the country. Most people in the same situation as me used to go to one of the Greek islands and have a nice weekend there. Then, after a weekend there they would come back with a renewed visa.

Another alternative was a short trip to İpsala on the border with Greece, crossing the border, and returning back. İpsala was just the name of the village next to the border, not a place to have a break.
I visited İpsala last week and walked around the village. It is a small town and the first impression you get is that there is not so much to do. But, while walking around I always find something interesting.

This time it was a car park, which looked more like a car cemetery to me. I asked a man who was walking around at the “parking lot” what all those cars were doing there. It turned out that he was the owner of the garden and that all the cars in the garden had been confiscated by customs. In this garden there are more stories to find then 10 midnight express films, as all of the cars had been involved in human smuggling or drugs smuggling.

The man pointed out a couple of cars. One was a Dutch license plated car, while another was a Swiss number plated car. The third car he pointed out was a small bus. It was almost new when he got it, but the sun, rain and wind had left their marks. The paint was gone and the tires were flat.

İpsala border keeps all the abandoned things

Smuggling and cars

One weekend a couple of years ago during a standard police control this car was stopped. The driver was asked for his license and the car’s papers, but he responded in a stressed way. Customs could not see what or who was in the car because all the curtains were closed. In a way this was not strange, as it was a warm day and everyone was trying to escape from the burning sun. A Turkish flag was attached to the front of the small bus.

The man in the car park told me: “The bus was on its way to a wedding that evening in Keşan. While we were talking my friends from customs were inspecting the car. They saw that the chassis of the car was almost touching the road. We went in and discovered black people - the car was packed with people. Four people on chairs, and even the gangway was full of people. The driver admitted the crime with a big smile on his face.”

I saw a car with Dutch number plates and asked for the story of that one. “Drugs,” the man answered simply.

I imagined two friends, one Dutch and one Turkish-Dutch: They have a wonderful holiday, go to Central Anatolia and the birthplace of the Turkish-Dutch guy, and even join a wedding. The last two weeks of their holiday they spend in places along the Mediterranean. While going back to the Netherlands customs stop them. The narcotic dogs respond quite excitedly when they are around the car of our two friends, so customs start giving the car a more thorough look. Door panels are removed, everything is turned upside down. Finally, cocaine is found in hidden chair compartments.

“The guys are still in prison,” the man told me. “Their car is rotting away here.” All those cars, all of them with their own story. Sad stories, stupid stories, greedy stories, painful stories. Every year, thousands of people try to cross the border of Turkey to Greece via İpsala. Dozens of cars are involved in drug smuggling.