Izmir, Aug 14 () - Fewer and fewer migrants are being seen on the streets and in the parks of the Aegean province of İzmir as Syrian refugees preparing to sail for Greece have been gathered and sent to tent camps, after being initially brought to a nearby stadium.
Unable to find hotels with vacancy or rent houses, many migrants had started to occupy İzmir’s parks, streets and any place with some shade, as they aimed at making their transition over to a Greek island, and thus the European Union, via the city.
The İzmir Governor’s Office had launched efforts together with Turkey’s Interior Ministry Migration Management Directorate and the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) to find ways in which they could reduce the numbers of Syrian migrants in the city.
One of these methods was to gather migrants in a nearby stadium and send them to tent camps.
Syrians, especially those living on the streets of the city’s Basmane neighborhood, were collected by buses under the coordination of the governor’s office and brought to the Atatürk Stadium in the Halkapınar district.
After accommodation at the stadium, the Syrians were sent to refugee camps in various cities. The ones who did not wish to be sent to refugee camps were allowed to stay in the stadium.
While Turkey hosts more than 1.8 million Syrian migrants across the country, the official number of migrants in İzmir is 68,700, but the real number is estimated to be as much as 500,000.
Another measure the governor’s office took was to set up checkpoints on the main roads coming to İzmir, where police stop and search vehicles that might contain refugees in the Sabuncubeli area connecting İzmir and Istanbul.
Officials are also intent on establishing checkpoints in Kemalpaşa and Menemen to prevent migrants from entering the city and make them return to where they came from.
İzmir Gov. Mustafa Toprak had said allowing Syrian migrants to come to the city and especially to a certain region in the metropolis created the perception that it was easy to make the illegal sea journey from İzmir.
“These people live here in inhuman conditions. We know that they are waiting for human smugglers with their luggage in hand. We will not allow this,” Toprak said Aug. 12, adding that they would not permit migrants who had been subjected to smuggling to stay in the city.
Toprak said those who have not yet started an illegal journey but are waiting for one in İzmir will be directed to tent cities where they can avail themselves of better living conditions.