Dikili is a small town on the Turkish coast. The harbor has been a major site of the refugee crisis, as Syrian refugees attempting to cross the Aegean to the Greek island of Lesbos have been returned here since the EU-Turkey deal has gone into effect. The green dots portray our drive off the highway to the town square. From there, the orange dots represent our walk to the harbor itself, surrounded by cafes, markets, and small shops. As you can see, the refugees were taken directly through a populated area not far from the main highway. This isn't something Turkish citizens can turn a blind eye to.
Just as in Assos, we have arrived a few weeks too late. There are no refugees in sight, as buses picked them up directly at the harbor and took them straight to state-run refugee camps, and the flow of refugees in general has almost stopped completely since the deal began. Out of sight, out of mind? Perhaps.
Or perhaps not. The presence of the crisis is unmistakable here if you know what to look for. First, you notice the large white ship docked at the port. Next, you notice the small ship next to it, belonging to the Turkish Navy with an armed guard on duty. We are told the Navy has no reason to be here other than in relation to the crisis. At the end of the dock there are police barricades both forming corrals and stacked. Dozens of them. Behind us is a Coast Guard boat and another drives into the harbor as we stand there. Again, we are told Dikili is a small port, they typically would only have one. Minor details that would have been lost on us without our Turkish guide.
It's not out of sight or mind at all, the harbor is filled with people drinking their afternoon tea and going about their business. But does anyone know exactly where these refugee camps are or how they are being treated? We don't stay long enough to speak with any locals, but the atmosphere of the harbor feels as though if they ignore the increased police and military presence, Dikili will become the sleepy Turkish coast town overshadowed by nearby Izmir that it was before.
Written by: Kaitlyn Lynes