Migrant smugglers in Turkey see their business booming with more Afghans

Turkey faces a new wave of immigration from Afghanistan. / CGTN

Turkey faces a new wave of immigration from Afghanistan. / CGTN

Migrant smugglers could see a surging demand in the face of the thousands of Afghans trying to flee the Taliban as the group took control of the country.

Reports and videos captured by Reuters showed hundreds of Afghans entering Turkey through the Iranian border since early August.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey is facing a new wave of immigration – although he added that security is being tightened.

In the meantime, those who attempt to cross borders illegally are forced to deal with a key group of people – migrant smugglers. The type of passage that fleeing refugees experience depends a lot on the migrant smuggler they are dealing with.

An Afghan says he “helps” people cross the border. / CGTN

An Afghan says he “helps” people cross the border. / CGTN

An Afghan who spoke to CGTN on condition of anonymity declined to be called a “smuggler” but said he “helps” those seeking safety.

He claimed that migrant smugglers have an extensive communication network, including security forces, such as the police, in different places that are often bribed.

“The smugglers say to the immigrants, ‘We will take you across the roads where we are in contact with the police. Even if they see you, they will ignore you. We will take you across this border one way or another. because we are paying them (the cops) back, which is why we are taking this route, ”he said, referring to the police on the Iranian side of the border.

The man said that in addition to helping refugees, smugglers can also mislead about the difficulties of the journey. “Migrants are told that a 3 hour drive is three hours, and then there are people on those routes whose hands and feet are injured and then they are left behind because there is still a long distance to go, ”he said.

Afghan refugees enter Turkey through Iran. / AFP

Afghan refugees enter Turkey through Iran. / AFP

He added that the most difficult part of the passage to or through Turkey is not the beginning but the end because “it is easier to cross Afghanistan in Iran, usually they settle it with cars”.

“It is difficult to enter Turkey from Iran because they have to cross difficult terrain, but the hardest part is to reach Istanbul from Van. Sometimes they bring up to 300 people in one truck.” , did he declare.

According to a lawyer for the Immigration and Refugees Commission of the Van Bar Association, Mahmut Kacan, a problem with migrant smuggling in Turkey is that the job is not risky enough in terms of lack of punishment for those caught in the act.

Kacan said that although they are charged with three to five years in prison, most migrant smugglers are released from prison in around three to four months. The punishment is not enough of a deterrent, so many former detainees continue to do the same work after their release.

An Afghan woman, Zeynep, who arrived illegally in Turkey in early August, recounted her personal experience of being smuggled into the country via Iran.

Formerly a wedding photographer in Herat, Afghanistan, Zeynep said she lives in constant fear of the Taliban, especially as an active woman. She said it took her several attempts to enter Turkey.

Afghan refugee Zeynep with her son who recently entered Turkey from Iran. / CGTN

Afghan refugee Zeynep with her son who recently entered Turkey from Iran. / CGTN

“On my first attempt I was on the road for two nights before arriving in Van. I stayed one night in a safe house, the next day the police raided the house and kept us in. a repatriation center for seven days, ”Zeynep said. .

Seeing her disabled son, Zeynep said she didn’t give up for him. She tried again and again to cross as they walked without food or water to cross the border. “I felt bad, at one point we encountered thieves who treated us terribly. I was terrified and stressed. We were successful on our sixth attempt,” said the mother.

Now Zeynep has rented a small apartment in Van where she lives with her son as she searches for a job, but again she is stressed “to get caught by the police and to be deported”.

Despite the difficulties refugees face when attempting to cross borders illegally, thousands of people continue to take the risks involved.

Migration experts, including the director of the Center for Population and Migration Research in Van, Professor Orhan Deniz, said they anticipate large numbers of Afghans fleeing the Taliban may soon be heading to Turkey. .

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