The Turkish Coastguard (TUR CG) received in Antalya two search and rescue vessels. The vessels are part of a EUR 20 million agreement between the European Union and the UN Migration Agency (IOM).

The Turkish Government responded to the increase in irregular migration by rescuing, since the beginning of 2015, nearly 135,000 migrants and refugees as they tried to make their way to Greece. On land and at sea, Turkish law enforcement authorities have taken effective measures.

The vessels, specifically designed for search and rescue operations, will help maintain the coverage and frequency of coastguard patrols. The vessels are fast and can operate under harsh weather conditions, as they have the capability to right themselves when capsized. In addition, a hydraulic platform makes it easier for the TUR CG to rescue people from the water.

“The vessels provided today to the Turkish Coastguard are the first installment of six highly sophisticated search and rescue boats funded by the European Union that IOM will deliver by the end of 2017,” said Lado Gvilava, IOM Turkey Chief of Mission.

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“While the Turkish Coastguard should be applauded for its efforts to rescue migrants and refugees, we must recognize that the underlying cause of what is driving people to make this risky journey continues to exist.  The international community must come together to root out the drivers of irregular migration. In this context, it is conflicts,” Gvilava added.

In addition to the six search and rescue vessels, the agreement with the IOM will support TUR CG staff carrying out search and rescue operations and dealing with tragic events.

The Head of the EU Delegation in Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger, said: “The strenuous efforts by the Turkish Coastguards have been crucial in saving human lives in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. The EU is proud to be able to contribute to the efforts of the Turkish Coast Guards through these first two state-of-the-art search and rescue vessels delivered today. Here, today, this project is a good example among many of what the EU and Turkey can achieve when we work together, and shows that we are stronger when we are together,” Ambassador Berger added.

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Commander of the Coastguard Command, Rear Admiral Bülent Olcay, said: “As the vessels of the Coastguard Command have far exceeded their annual average navigation time in the fight against irregular migration, their breakdown ratio and the frequency of planned maintenance intervals have increased. Therefore, the machine lifespans have begun to expire rapidly. The most evident example of such invisible costs incurred in the process of stemming irregular migration are the nine Coastguard vessels whose lifespans expired early due to overuse. These vessels had to be decommissioned at the end of 2016, two to three years earlier than expected. In brief, the new vessels supplied in the framework of EU-funded projects provide ‘a partial compensation of losses’ rather than ‘a capacity increase’.”

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With this EUR 20 million project, the European Union further strengthens its co-operation with the Turkish Coastguard in the area of migration management. The project is being implemented by IOM and foresees the production and supply of six search and rescue vessels for the Turkish Coastguard.

The project also includes training on several topics such as international migration law, sensitive interview techniques, protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants, counter-migrant smuggling, and human trafficking. Furthermore, the project also offers support to TUR CG frontline officers to alleviate the psychological impact they face in their daily search and rescue operations at sea.