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Paz Shabtai

Perhaps due to international pressure, mainly from the US and Russia, to secure its border with Syria and to enforce strict border control, Turkey has now finalized plans to create a new comprehensive border security unit encompassing territorial security, coast guard and customs security.

The Turkish interior minister, Efkan Ala, has announced the creation of a new comprehensive border security unit called “professional armed border security unit,” which will be run by civil authorities instead of the army. He stressed that the purpose of the new unit was to ensure Turkey’s land, airspace and coastal border security by civil authorities, but did not provide details regarding its size or any further technical details.

Turkey had already placed the border with Syria under emergency rule earlier this month. Turkish voices spoken across the media say the decision shows that international pressure on Turkey is working. President Barack Obama said the Islamic State group transports “fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities” through the Turkish border. Russia has gone even further to suggest that Turkey might be purposely looking the other way. Perhaps to appease the West, Turkey is now showing it is serious in sealing the border. In a statement posted on its official website, the General Staff said land Force units captured 502 illegal migrants on Dec. 16, while also capturing seven people who were trying to illegally enter Syria from Turkish territories.

This new border control unit is not meant just to secure the border with Syria, but also to prevent people from leaving Turkey and entering Europe, which has been keen for Turkey to stop migrants from taking to the Aegean Sea. So keen, in fact, that is has agreed to pay  €3 billion in aid and fast-track access to visas in return for clamping down on the flow of migrants to Europe.

The Turkish Interior Ministry will prepare a bill for the creation of the new border security unit, which will be sent to the Turkish parliament for approval.

“In the short term, we need to set up a strong civil coordination mechanism. We will create it, soon. Second, we need to build up the civil organization to protect our borders,” Ala said. “We have coast guard command, land forces command and customs guards. However, the new large-scale unit will contain all these guards.”

Industry sources said the unit would require a variety of equipment. “Any item related to border security, especially high-tech gear, will be in need,” one source said.