EU Mission to Igdir (17-19 October):
Every year, several hundred people around the word, including many children, step on a landmine and are killed or injured. In addition to the individual suffering, landmines also cause serious social and economic problems, hindering development. Mine action aims to reduce the impact of the mines with a number of measures ranging from de-mining to victim assistance. The European Union has worked hard in the framework of the Mine Ban Treaty to address the issue of getting rid of mines around the world. Combating anti-personnel landmines is a top priority for the European Union’s security agenda. This not only covers assistance to dig out mines from the minefields but ultimately to protect civilians. The EU, together with its Member States, is the largest donor in the fight against landmines, with more than 1,5 billion Euro devoted to this task since 1997.
In Turkey, EU support to mine action is framed within the efforts to reform border management. Landmines were laid by Turkish authorities as a tool for securing the borders between 1984 and 1999. Today, Turkey, the EU and the UNDP are jointly working to clear those mines while at the same time ensuring modern, stronger and more humane means of border security. We all have a common goal with this project: to get rid of the landmines at Turkey’s borders and replace them with more effective border surveillance tools for more secure borders. This way, we reduce human suffering, increase socio-economic development and strengthen border management at an entry point of irregular migration and all forms of irregular border crossings into Turkey. To serve our common interest, in this project of two phases, we will be clearing the landmines and supporting the capacity of the Turkish Mine Action Centre. We will also train the staff in charge of borders on risk-based border surveillance. Moreover, we are in the process of supplying 82 patrol vehicles to intensify the mobile surveillance capacity of the Land Forces.
The total funding for these activities amounts to 106 million Euro (including an EU contribution of 80 Million Euro). The EU contribution is provided by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), the tool with which the EU supports reforms in Turkey with financial assistance and transfer of know-how, and helps build Turkey’s capacity to take on the obligations of EU membership. The EU will continue to support Turkey in strengthening its capacity for border management to prevent all forms of cross-border crimes and to better manage migration flows.
Since June 2016, [as of 18 October 2016] 5,268 mines have been cleared in an area of 89,352 m2 in the province of Igdir. This means that over 5,000 accidents or deaths have been prevented. With an average of 53 mines cleared per day and 1,317 mines per month, this is one of the largest demining operations in the world.
Overall the projects aim to clear mines along the Armenian, Azerbaijan and Iranian borders. This covers the provinces of Van-Agri-Kars-Igdir. Over 200,000 mines are expected to be cleared in an area covering over 11,500,000 m2 of minefields, out of a total mined area in Turkey of approximately 313,274,400 m2.