The British Home Office has funded more than £3 million to the Turkish Border Guard in a year to prevent migrants from reaching the UK, according to research carried out for The Guardian.
Funding for Turkey’s border operations has increased substantially since 2009, when the Turkish Police and Coast Guard received £14,000 for training, according to documents obtained through “Freedom of Information” (FOI) requests. which citizens can request information from public institutions).
In 2021-2022, that figure rose to £425,000, for training and equipment; and it exceeded 3 million this year (2022-2023), for “return and reintegration assistance”, training and personnel.
This financing was diverted from the Official Development Assistance budget and channeled through the so-called International Interior Operations, which are part of the Intelligence department of this Department, he explains. The Guardian.
Financing, information, equipment and training
In addition to funding, the Home Office also supplied Turkish border forces, including the Police and Coast Guard, with equipment and training. For example, in June 2022, nine vehicles were handed over to the Turkish National Police at the border with Iran.
Last year, Turkey claimed to have prevented the entry of 238,448 migrants through its eastern border with Iran. Some videos analyzed by Guardian show cases where extreme violence and force was used against Afghan migrants trying to cross the border into Turkey: security forces fired live ammunition as migrants fled, including at the feet of children; they beat them with their rifles, robbed and humiliated them, and pushed them back across the border.
A Turkish lawyer, who works on cases of human rights abuses and asylum, Mahmut Kaçan, said that deaths and returns at the border began to increase two years ago. “UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) never criticizes or mentions what Turkey is doing at the border, they are complicit in the deaths of these people, as are the European Union and the countries that give money to Turkey to border security”.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Home Office’s International Operations team said Turkey has become “a country of increasing importance (to the British government) in the past two years and is now seen as a strategically crucial country for border security.” ”.
The source added that this team “offers its experience and evidence to local officials, showing them the routes we believe illegal migrants or gangs are using.” He explained that if “this is the route that smugglers and illegal migrants use to get to the UK, we need to do more to stop it.” So, “the Turkish government tells us ‘this is what we need to be able to stop it’, and we finance it”.
If from the UK they say “we need to strengthen border security area X”, Turkey responds that “it needs Y to be able to increase the number of border agents” and then they help this country to achieve it, the source said. Another source also familiar with the work of International Operations, considered that “paying for this type of thing increases our soft power in other areas, such as possible return agreements”.
The sources added that, as part of the Home Office’s operations abroad, intelligence information is obtained through interviews with migrants who have arrived in the UK. That information is shared with local border forces to “put in place an operational plan to stop” the migration.
Other documents obtained by Guardian reveal that the Home Office has increased the number of employees posted on the ground, and other sources ensured that Home Office staff outnumber British diplomats working in Turkey.
The Interior’s border strategy for 2025 establishes as one of its priorities “improving the use of measures against illegal migration in other countries to prevent illegal entries into the United Kingdom”. It also stipulates that the Ministry “will prevent entry into the UK by improving border security and working with countries of origin and transit, supporting these countries in tackling the challenges of irregular migration in their region.”
The manager of campaigns and networks for JCWI (an NGO that works in favor of the welfare of migrants), Mary Atkinson, stated that “this government has shown that it will break international law to prevent people from exercising their fundamental human right to look for safety”.
For its part, a spokesman for the Home Office, in response to what was revealed by The Guardian investigation, said that “like many other countries, the United Kingdom works tirelessly at home and abroad on a number of priorities, including making against illegal immigration, drug trafficking and modern slavery. This entails close working and mutual benefit for all operational counterparts in a number of partner countries, such as Turkey.”