Disputed Numbers on irregular migrants held across Turkey

photo: Anadolu Agency

Turkey’s state-run news agency “Anadolu Agency” has been providing contradicting numbers on the irregular migrants held by Turkish authority across the country. By the beginning of this year, the agency announced the number of the migrants held in the seas around Turkey to be 26,678 for 2018, indicating a rise of 21.6 percent compared to 2017. Regarding 2019, the numbers released so far sum up to more than 2,500.

Using the search term “irregular migrants” on the agency’s website, 16 different news articles were found on the migrants held across Turkey between 1 January and 8 February alone. The migrants are reported to be of various countries of origin, such as Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Iran. The numbers of those held at any one time vary between 14 and 709. However, this is not the case when the website is used in Turkish. When “düzensiz göçmen” is searched, only two articles are found for the same period.

The reports by AA often specify the numbers, nationalities of the migrants and the locations where they were held, referring to security sources as the sources of the information. However, no details were shared on when and how the operations were carried out on the migrants rounded up.

The disparity as well as the lack of details in the news released by the state-run news agency, which is frequently referred to by several national news channels, is concerning. Further data is needed to understand whether these numbers reflect the day-to-day realities of migrant round-ups in Turkey, or whether the reports are being published to deliberately mislead. Regardless, the reports serve to spread fear or persuade migrant readers from attempting to cross, and to demonstrate to (apparently only English) readers that the Turkish state is ‘in control’ of the irregular migration towards Europe.