Iğdır, 28 September 2021 – The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today launched a €18.6-million project that will clear 83,000 landmines from along Turkey’s eastern border by January 2023. Working in partnership with the Turkish Mine Action Center (TURMAC), the EU-funded project will make 4.2 million square meters of land safe for local civilians and border management personnel. The new project builds on two earlier phases that since 2016 have cleared 46,000 mines and left 4.7 million square meters of territory mine-free, at a total cost of an additional €18.6 million in EU funding.
On this occasion, Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut said: “Integrated border management is an approach that the EU promotes in all its programming, including in the de-mining of state borders. It stands for a modernised, cost-efficient and – more importantly – humane way of border protection. EU’s support to the removal of landmines also helps Turkey meet its commitments under the Ottawa Convention, to which Turkey is a party since 2004, and which bans the use of anti-personnel landmines.”
“Landmines have earned universal condemnation as the most inhumane tool for controlling borders,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “They kill indiscriminately and jeopardize rather than protect the lives of people charged with managing the border. That is why we are so proud that UNDP Turkey is currently managing the largest de-mining project under way under United Nations auspices anywhere in the world. The large scale is testament to Turkey’s strong commitment to humanitarian border management, in line with EU standards.”
Together with TURMAC Director Brigadier General Mehmet Zeki Eren, Meyer-Landrut and Vinton visited a minefield near Iğdır to see demining crews in action, detecting and safely detonating landmines. In all, 175 deminers supported by 16 mine detection dogs are currently at work in four Turkish provinces.
“We have been working successfully in this humanitarian demining operation with the EU and UNDP since 2016, to contribute to Turkey’s border surveillance and management capacity,” said Eren. “We are confident our efforts to eliminate the risk posed by landmines will ensure a safer environment for people and boost the local economy.”
Some of the land cleared by the project will be open for raising livestock and farming, the main local occupations. The project will also provide a boost to local communities by creating more than 450 jobs for deminers, medics, administrative support staff and drivers. After earlier phases, some local deminers found jobs outside the country.
In addition to clearing mines, the project will provide training to TURMAC personnel in areas such as quality management, work with mine detection dogs and technical survey operations including data management and analysis. This continues training provided under previous phases, which benefitted more than 500 personnel from TURMAC, the Land Forces and the Ministry of Interior.
With additional Government funding of US$2.5 million, UNDP will also support TURMAC in conducting an assessment of 3,502 minefields in other regions, as part of the preparatory work for future demining efforts.
Finally, the project will work with civil society organizations to provide risk education on mines and unexploded ordnance in four provinces and educational materials for sessions to be delivered by the Gendarmerie for more than 900 villages, to ensure that local residents understand the risks posed by landmines.
In becoming a party to the Ottawa Treaty in 2004, Turkey agreed to phase out anti-personnel landmines and establish a humanitarian border surveillance system. UNDP’s efforts help mark measurable progress towards compliance with the Ottawa Treaty while achieving the goals set by the EU for integrated border management. Turkey is one of 30 countries where UNDP is working to support demining and national mine action authorities.
For “Danger Mines” video released in April 2019: youtube.com/watch?v=U4ZZ7FYUySI
For the International Mine Awareness Day video with Olympic medalist national gymnast Ferhat Arıcan released in April 2021: youtube.com/watch?v=x_rkySZsytQ