IOM Turkey will continue to respond to the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees attempting to cross to Europe through the Western Mediterranean and Land Border routes in Turkey, while supporting the Government of Turkey by enhancing their capacity to provide assistance to migrants and refugees at sea and land borders.
Since signing the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016 and the closure of the Balkan Route, migrants and refugees have attempted using alternative paths to reach Europe, including sea crossings from Turkey to Greece. Following the announcement from the Turkish Government that the Turkey-EU borders would be opened from the Turkish side, in February and March 2020, IOM observed an increase in migrant and refugee arrivals in Edirne Province and at the Aegean Sea intending to cross to Greece. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 has reduced the migration flows on these routes. In 2020, Turkey rescued 19,208 individuals at Turkey’s maritime boundaries and 112,130 individuals on land across the country.
The migration flows are expected to increase again once the pandemic recedes. The Aegean Sea crossing where migrants and refugees depart from Izmir Province to reach Greece remains a popular transit point for migrants and refugees who wish to enter the EU. The same applies to Edirne Province – most notably the land border between Turkey and Greece along the Maritsa River. The land crossings through Edirne are on the rise and exceeded sea crossings during the summer of 2020 due to fewer risks for crossing.
Migrants and refugees rescued at sea and on land include children, elderly, pregnant women, people with disabilities and other vulnerabilities who are in need of humanitarian assistance and specialized care. Rescued migrants and refugees with medical concerns face immediate health risks due to loss of their medications during the crossings. Moreover, Turkish regulations on the provision of medicines and movement restrictions after the rescue limit access of migrants and refugees to prescription medicines.
For all regional activities related to the Syria crisis, please see IOM's Syria Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2020.