Minister of Transport Taçoy speaks about tragic refugee incident
Kıbrıs Postası – Meryem Ekinci
The rescue operation of a total of 235 refugees (210 Syrians, 6 Palestinians living in Iraq, 3 Turkmen living in Iraq and 17 Iraqis) who got stranded after the Haj Zeher boat asked for helped portrayed the uncertainty experienced by the refugees which showed the humanitarian plight at the centre of the operation.
Tacoy who observed the boat being towed into the Kyrenia Port right until they were deported gave insightful statements to Kıbrıs Postası. In his statement Tacoy expressed his gratitude to all the units which contributed to the operation.
Public Works and Transportation Minister Hasan Tacoy stated that they had experienced such an incident for the first time, expressing his concern. Tacoy noted that the questions of “Will the ship hit a rock? Will it sink? were constantly on their minds. “The edges of the boat was shallow, the people were in the cellar, if water reached there they could all die. This wasn’t a situation we were to handle but the Security Command Forces and the Civil Defence Headship who were in coordination with us were well equipped and the Civil Defence procured everything,” he said.
“They asked why we didn’t intervene for 24 hours”
Tacoy explained his first meeting with the refugees after they reached to the Kyrenia Port at the early hours of the 23rd of November. “One of the questions they asked us was why we have waited to intervene for 24 hours. First we had to explain this to them. When nearing the boat, if there was to be a collision maybe they would have toppled over, this would have cost their lives,” he said.
“What hurt me most was...”
Tacoy noted that one of the questions he had to face saddened him, saying that; “One of the questions that hurt me the most was whether we would handcuff them. There was a phrase written on the boat; ‘We want Red Cross.’ My answer to them with a bit of a smile was ‘We have Kizilay (Red Crescent).’ And they asked us whether this was a land of the European Union or not. We explained… We told them that we had prepared a space for them, in order for them to rest, that they will pass through a doctor’s control; that they would be provided with food and a passport control will take place. We told them to trust us and not to make an issue because we were going to approach them with good intentions.”
“They wanted to be sent back to Turkey”
Tacoy drew attention to the uncertainty experienced by the refugees who were stranded at the seas for days. Later they asked us what we were going to do to them. I asked them what they wanted us to do. “Send us to Turkey” they said. This was an answer which pleased me as well as making me emotional,” he said.
“Heartbreaking screams was the reason for emotional moments"
Tacoy explained the process following: “Of course the people went through emotional moments because they didn’t know where they were or what they were going to face next. Firstly we took the children and women. The 15 year old son of one of the woman stayed with the men. There were children who were crying out for their mothers. Those heartbreaking screams were the reason for emotional moments to be lived. When we entered the sports hall one person came up to me and told we that one day when she will marry and she wanted to have her honeymoon in Cyprus. A child around 13 or 14 years old explained how his parents were in Turkey and how he had gone on his journey with his relatives. The child knew Turkish. He told us that the people in Cyprus were warm-hearted and that he would love to live here.”
Finally, before they were boarding for their trip back to Turkey, 2 little children, one 4 year old and a three year old, a boy and a girl, ran up to us. “Gratitude Gratitude,” they sad, lifting their arms to sit on our laps. We lifted them up. That was the end of the film. The moment to endure the emotion was until that point. The ambassador was also with me. First we kissed the boy and then the girl. The girl turned to the ambassador and thanked him. The ambassador also picked up the girl. Then the family came to us. Answering to their questions whether they were to be arrested in Turkey, I told them that they should trust me as I had spoken to Turkish Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, so such an arrest was not going to happen. I was informed that the people who had their passports had entered the country, whereas the people who did not have any ID or passport were sent to camps. This gave me a different contentedness. God willing such an incident will not experienced again. Truly it is a heartbreaking situation.”