Fraud by Turkish gov’t reported in spending EU’s financial aid for Syrian refugees

Agreements for projects that have been financed by the European Union as part of a refugee deal with Turkey have been broken and the funding has been misused by Turkey, German magazine Der Spiegel reported.

According to Der Spiegel, the implementation of the agreement between Turkey and the EU is by no means running as smoothly as presented by officials in Brussels. A number of projects on which both sides have agreed are still in existence today are broken, and EU partner organizations are being harassed by Turkey.

As a part of the refugee deal, the EU has already transferred 3 billion euros to Turkey, with another 3 billion available soon. About half of the first instalment went to “humanitarian” aid, notably the United Nations World Food Program. The remaining 1.6 billion euros was earmarked for 26 medium and long-term “non-humanitarian” projects. However, according to research by the European Investigative Collaborations network (EIC), less than half of the projects have thus far been implemented, while some have not even been pushed and some are scheduled for the year 2021.

Der Spiegel reported that the EU made 90 million euros available for the completion of two hospitals in the Turkish border towns of Kilis and Antakya. In both cases, the construction has apparently not even begun. Even the planned construction of schools is questionable: The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) has only laid the foundation for eight out of 39 schools.

The EU emphasizes that the money from the deal does not go to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but to refugee aid: 660 million euros has been paid to the Turkish government, 300 million euros to the Ministry of Education and Health and 60 million euros to the Turkish Migration Service (DGMM).

The work of the EU in Turkey is complicated by the fact that the government of President Erdoğan is negotiating with nongovernmental organizations, including some that cooperate with the EU. The employees do not receive work permits or are subject to conditions. The Mercy Corps, an EU partner in the implementation of the refugee deal, was even expelled from the country.

Photo: Der Spiegel

According to another report by Der Spiegel, the Turkish government has barricaded its border with Syria with the help of funding from the European Union. There are few options left for Syrians trying to flee the brutal war in their home country, and those who do risk death.

As an EU member, Germany is also implicated in the arming of the Turkish border against refugees. The EU states have provided the government in Ankara with security and surveillance technology valued at more than 80 million euros in exchange for the protection of its borders, according to research conducted by Der Spiegel and the EIC.

This included the transfer of 35.6 million euros by Brussels to the Turkish company Otokar as part of its IPA regional development program for the construction of armored Cobra II military vehicles, which are now being used to patrol the Syrian border.

According to Der Spiegel, arms manufacturer Aselsan, of which the Turkish state owns a majority stake, was also commissioned by the EU to provide Ankara with 30 million euros worth of armored and non-armored surveillance vehicles for patrolling the Turkish-Greek land border.

In March 2016, the EU and Ankara closed a deal under which the Europeans would pay 3 billion euros to Turkey if the country kept the refugees inside its borders. The money was intended to help the Syrians in Turkey, but 18 million euros went to a Dutch company that manufactured six patrol boats for the Turkish coast guard.

“The border to Turkey had remained open to Syrians until summer 2015. Some 3,5 million Syrians came to Turkey as refugees, more than any other country. Since then, Ankara has closed the Syrians’ escape route, partly due to pressure from the EU. Anyone still seeking to escape the war in Syria must now either be prepared to pay a lot of money or to risk their lives,” wrote Der Spiegel.

Ultimately, the EU’s refugee agreement with Turkey has merely served to shift the crisis: Fewer people are dying now in the Aegean, where the number of boat crossings to Greece has decreased since the signing of the agreement. Instead, people are now dying at the Turkish-Syrian border.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), whose numbers cannot be independently verified, at least 42 people have died trying to cross the border wall since September 2017. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported similar cases, as well as mass deportations of Syrian refugees from Turkey.

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