Turkey completes evacuation from Europe
Turkey’s vice president said on early March 18 that some 2,807 Turkish citizens have been brought home at their request from nine European countries on which Turkey imposed travel bans amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Fuat Oktay said in a tweet that the evacuation was completed at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300GMT). He said that the returnees will be put under a 14-day quarantine in large dormitories located in the Istanbul and Kocaeli provinces.
“All measures for their health, safety, nutrition, and accommodation have been taken in line with the rules set by the Health Ministry and Science Board [for coronavirus],” Oktay said.
Turkey banned entry from Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even though every returnee has been put under quarantine, video footage from late March 17 showed a woman attempting to escape the quarantine.
After passengers arriving from Paris to Istanbul boarded a bus, two passengers were seen getting off the bus by police. The incident created fury among the passengers, who were also set to be put under quarantine.
The returnees reacted against the passenger who got off the bus and the authorities, saying the move breached the rules of quarantine and is an example of “double standard.”
One of the passengers recorded the woman getting off the bus and posted it on social media.
The woman who got off the bus was later identified as Güzide Sofi, the daughter of Turkish Cyprus’ Civil Aviation Director Mustafa Sofi.
“What can I say? My daughter is in quarantine in Turkey. My child boarded the plane to come to Cyprus and the footage was posted as she was coming here. We are the victims here,” Mustafa Sofi said on March 18 on a television program.
“She was to be quarantined here too. The Republic of Turkey is our motherland. How can we have the authority to intervene?” he said.
Sofi said his daughter was doing a master’s degree in France.
“My daughter was afraid of these reactions,” he said.
Inquiry launched against incident
The vice president said an inquiry has been launched against the incident.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said two passengers boarded on the plane via a transit to Cyprus, yet there is currently no such practice with the latest arrivals.
“The necessary thing is being done regarding the wrong boarding. The passengers are being put in quarantine. We will send them to Cyprus after 14 days,” Soylu said in a tweet.
“Neglect cannot be accepted here. No one gets privileges,” he said.
Nevertheless, this was not the first incident of a run-away returnee, as some Turkish citizens who came from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia also attempted to escape, but failed.
The returnees from Saudi Arabia were put under quarantine in student dorms in the capital Ankara and central Anatolian province of Konya. In Konya, the quarantined citizens were seen in skirmishes with the security forces, in an attempt to run away from the dorms.
In addition, 28 more citizens who arrived from the Umrah pilgrimage as well initially escaped from the quarantine by reserving a special bus for themselves. The escapees were captured when attempting to travel to the eastern Erzurum province.
Erzurum Governor Okay Memiş said the quarantine fugitives were sent to Ankara and Konya via security measures.
An expedition was launched for the return of Turkish citizens in these countries who were there for business, visiting family or education. The first plane carrying 108 Turkish citizens from Munich, Germany, arrived in Istanbul on March 17.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that some 3,614 Turks from nine European countries will return to Turkey until March 17 midnight.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) will be addressing their needs during the quarantine, Çavuşoğlu added.