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Turkey moves to halt flow of foreign fighters to Syria

Risk analysis centers at airports, improved border security are among efforts to stop militant recruits

27.07.2015
Turkey moves to halt flow of foreign fighters to Syria

ANKARA

 Turkey has revealed some of the measures it has put in place across its 900 kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria to stop the flow of fighters fuelling the civil war.

Information from the Prime Minister’s Office of Public Diplomacy shows that more than 1,000 people suspected of trying to join groups like Daesh have been denied entry to Turkey over the last year.

At risk analysis centers based in airports and bus stations, special teams seek to identify extremists heading for Syria.

The centers, established last year, have screened more than 4,500 foreign suspects, denying entry to around 1,000 and deporting at least 600.

In interview rooms, security officials conduct psychological testing to help determine whether suspects should be to be sent back to their countries of origin. For those who are denied entry or deported, a confidential file is sent to the authorities in their home country that outlines the reasons for their return.

Turkey, which receives more than 40 million visitors every year, has been doing it all it can to disrupt the journeys of potential fighters to Syria since the conflict erupted in 2011, according to the Prime Ministry.

It has deployed additional troops to the border to tackle smuggling and illegal crossings and was among the first to highlight the dangers of foreign fighters crossing from neighboring countries.

The government says Western countries should do more to prevent their nationals from travelling to Syria.

According to Turkish officials, it is easier to stop foreign terror suspects before they leave the country of origin than apprehending them in Turkey.

They also criticize a lack of intelligence-sharing by Western governments for aiding the tide of militants across Turkey’s borders.

The prime minister’s office estimates that there are between 40,000 and 70,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, including around 24,000 foreign fighters.

Many of these foreigners come from Europe and Turkey attributes this to the failures of Western governments to combat radicalization and ban suspects from travelling abroad.

In contrast, the office estimates that between 1,000 and 1,300 Turkish nationals have joined Daesh -- putting Turkey outside the top ten of nations supplying recruits to the group.

Turkey says it has barred entry to nearly 16,000 people from 108 countries since 2011, when it introduced a list of restricted people.

Syrian border measures

The Turkish army has taken a number of extra measures to prevent illegal crossings into Syria and Iraq.

A 365 kilometer (225 mile) ditch to stop vehicle crossings, a 70 km rampart and a concrete wall stretching for 7 km are among the border security measures, as well as a 22 km accordion barrier.

On the Syrian border, 145 km of wire fencing has been renewed and improved lighting and roads along a 270 km stretch make it easier to guard.

The increased presence of soldiers has been a key factor and half of Turkey’s 40,000 border troops are now dedicated to patrolling the Syrian boundary.

Recently, the Turkish media has reported on a project that will include a 3.5-meter high concrete wall along the border with Syria as well as improved lighting, more fences and ditches, watchtowers, aerial observation and an improved patrol road network.

This echoes the measures already put in place in Kiziltepe, Mardin province, that include night vision and thermal surveillance cameras and sensors that are monitored constantly from a command center.

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