PASSING BY HATAY, 87 KM FROM ALLEPO, SYRIA.
Turkey hosts around 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world, and has spent around $25 billion on helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of Syrian civil war. In 2016 EU agreed to provide 6 billion euros in aid in exchange for Ankara's efforts to contain the arrival of refugees into the EU.
Hatay together with 4 other border provinces have received over half of the refugees. I have been to 3 of these provinces in 2009 (Mardin, Urfa and Gaziantep) and the idea visiting Hatay kept pumping into my head. I wanted to have a more vivid image of all that is going on.
In an attempt to visit the refugee camps in Hatay, I have made contacts with different actors beforehand. However, visiting refugee camps in Turkey is far more complicated than I expected and I didn't get the permit.
Without the permit to enter in the camps there was really nothing to do here... In addition, last week, Turkish military forces started an operation in Idlip - a Syrian city located 53 Km from here - and Turkish troops have started to deploy alongside Hatay border.
Plus, over the last year, the majority of the International NGOs in Hatay including Save the Children, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and UNICEF were shut down by the the Turkish Government.
But my heart kept pushing... 2 weeks ago I have made contact with a person from United Nations who works here and she's a friend of the colleagues from the Turkish Ministry of Planing whom I've met in Milan, 3 weeks ago.
She agreed to meet me and helped me search for safe accommodation and transfer from the airport. I took a lot of care, planned every detail and I'm feeling pretty safe despite everything. As a result, I met with this person yesterday and I have learn a lot about the situation in here as compared to my experience in Greece.
Moreover, she putted me in contact with a colleague from Doctors Without Borders, which I'm going to visit now. The journey itself has been a surprise. Actually, with all of this I forgot about tourism, but the city is beautiful. Its was part of the OttomanEmpire, until its collapse after WorldWarI. The smell of spices, the silk scarfs and the gastronomy feed all our senses.