Baerbock and Faeser in Turkey

Germany Foreign Minister Baerbock and Interior Minister Faeser have promised further help in the Turkish earthquake area. At the same time, it became clear how complicated support with Visa is.

So this time a trip without protocol hurdles, without the usual meetings with the Turkish foreign and interior ministers. The ministers even missed the Turkish President Erdogan, who was also in the earthquake region of Gaziantep, by a hair’s breadth – whether intentionally or not – on departure from the airport.

It was agreed that the trip should not be a regular state visit, according to the German side. Two weeks after the earthquake of the century, Turkish politicians had more important things to settle. And in order not to stand in the way, the visit was only made now and without political support.

And so the reception of the ministers is a size smaller this time. Instead of the red carpet, we went to the earthquake area in jeans, sneakers and boots.

Foreign and Interior Ministers traveling together is, if not a novelty, then at least a rarity. It is intended to show that both ministries are working together to alleviate the hardship.

Tons of supplies

The first appointment takes place directly on the runway. Appropriately, an A400M of the Air Force is being unloaded within walking distance of the government plane. The ministers are pleased that, unlike in previous natural disasters, no cargo planes had to be chartered. Baerbock and Faeser leave the German-Turkish press entourage behind and disappear into the huge, gray tailgate. They want to find out about the distribution of relief supplies.

After two weeks, the technical relief organization brought all the tents that were stored in Germany to Turkey. Because in particular the accommodation of people at night temperatures of up to minus eight degrees is still the biggest problem – also in northern Syria.

But the THW only delivers the relief supplies to the Turkish-Syrian border. What really matters to those in need is not exactly known. Nevertheless, the federal government is providing a further 17 million euros for help. She trusts the UN and non-governmental organizations to distribute the relief supplies. There are no direct transfers to the Assad regime.

Bund wants to help with trauma management

After 20 minutes on the tarmac, they get into the state coach and the convoy takes them to the area hardest hit by the quake. When the two German ministers reach the camp of the earthquake victims, the crowd is huge when they arrive. According to the Turkish Civil Protection, 1,700 people live here, including 250 children. It is one of several tent cities in the region, set in a park.

Annalena Baerbock squats down and introduces herself and Interior Minister Faeser to a little boy and a little girl. But the children are very shy about the hustle and bustle and the experiences. Later, in her official statement, she tells of two brothers who had to flee their buried house barefoot and in their pajamas. Baerbock wants to break down the great catastrophe and make it tangible.

The two ministers didn’t travel too early to the earthquake area because they didn’t want to stand in the way of the first responders. But they know that reconstruction will take years, including the psychological one. Because many people are severely traumatized. The federal government wants to give them a temporary opportunity to relax with their closest relatives in Germany. But applying for the necessary visa is difficult when the passports have been lost in the meters of rubble.

The visa problem

The city of Gaziantep, with a population of over two million, was also affected by the earthquake. In the last few days, you first had to check whether the visa center in a modern commercial building had suffered any damage. Now work is going on here again. And the two ministers proudly announce that around 120 visas have been issued in the past few days.

This should allow earthquake victims to travel to their families in Germany. Around three million people with Turkish roots live in Germany. One of them is Sadam Köskeroglu. He is standing with his father on the street in front of Gaziantep’s visa center. His family comes from a small village near Antakia. The father has a heart condition and injured his hand and arm after the earthquake. There were broken pieces everywhere and there was no electricity to turn on the light.

Sadam Köskeroglu drove 28 hours in his car from Ulm to the earthquake area. But now it turns out that with the documents that his parents still have, they can only get an emergency visa for Germany. The three-month visa for the entire Schengen area cannot be issued here today.

They would not be allowed to drive their son’s car through other EU countries to Ulm. Now the family is considering whether to raise the additional money for a flight to Germany or to try to gather more documents. “I don’t understand why people are making it so difficult for us,” says Sadam Köskeroglu. “My parents just want to rest a bit and get some distance from the destruction. Germany is great and social, but my father and mother don’t want to stay there at all. Their home is here in Turkey.”

Necessary documents are often missing

The two German ministers, on the other hand, want to spread optimism. The German authorities should now deal with the Turkish visa applications as a matter of priority. However, the obligation to present a valid passport and a biometric photo should remain if you want to apply for a visa.

But that is already a problem, because most people in Turkey do not have a passport, and the earthquake victims often lost all their documents in the destroyed houses. When asked why she, as German Minister of the Interior, is sticking to the passport requirement, Faeser says: “I’m responsible for security in Germany. I also have to take the appropriate security precautions so that the checks can also take place.”

Many Turkish people therefore prefer to stay with relatives or friends in Turkey. For Sedam Köskeroglu, the process is frustratingly complicated. And it is still completely unclear whether the short visit by the two ministers to the earthquake area will change anything.


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