Since 2014, Turkey has been strongly involved in human trafficking towards the EU, especially with the escalation of the Syrian crisis and the increase in refugees’ numbers. Since then, a lot of information, indicators and data reveal that Turkey is officially involved in human trafficking, sometimes through facilitating trafficking operations and sometimes by direct interference.
Migrants as Students, Trafficking with Official Permission
The involvement of the Turkish Government in trafficking is not limited to facilitating the migrants crossing the Turkish border, but also facilitating their departure from their countries and arrival to Turkey through fake study visas that help migrants to enter the country and then head to the coast for Europe.
These visas are sold through mediators who coordinate the connection between migrants and the relevant Turkish departments. The visas have become an illegal source of profits for many employees in the Turkish state, especially the diplomatic corps employees in countries far from Turkey, with which the country shares no borders, like Somalia, Sudan, and some Central Asian countries.
The Turkish government declared last February that it opened the borders for migrants who want to reach the Greek islands, which led to the flow of thousands of migrants who crossed the borders toward Greece, their first European station.
Turkey.. a Black Market for Humans
Turkey has become a black market for humans, as the issue of migration and smuggling is linked to integrated networks of Mafia leaders and Turkish officials. Traffickers and mediators are backed by mafia and big gangs that practice their business under the cover of some state agencies, especially the coast guards and the Gendarmes deployed near the Turkish coasts.
Networks of Mafias and State Figures
Abu Ahmad, a former trafficking mediator, asserts that trafficking in Turkey is a pyramid, the lower part of which is the mediator and the upper is the mafia heads, in addition to political and security officials. Abu Ahmad says that the smuggling operations are organized by some state agencies.
He points out that trafficking is carried out by several Turkish mafias, not a single mafia, some of which sell migrants to each other and share crossing points on the coasts.
“They reach agreements on the fees of smuggling, everything runs perfectly well, contrary to what people see, and when there is dispute, big confrontations with arms erupt among the trafficking mafias.”
Abu Ahmad reveals that the process is hierarchical and the money of smuggling is divided according to that sequence. He emphasizes that everyone in the pyramid knows only the person who is one level above him or his supervisor.
In addition, Abu Ahmad asserts that the dates were known to the Turkish state apparatus, including the police and coast guard. “We have always been aware when the coast would be watched and when it would be safe to smuggle people, we could say that the government is aware of all that,” Abu Ahmed cays.
Greek authorities have called their Turkish counterpart earlier to activate more measures to stopping the illegal entry of emigrants to their lands, indicating that the arrival of emigrants in the last period, especially from Somalia, seems to be coordinated perfectly.
Between Politics and Business, there is benefit
Omar Kamal, a strategic researcher, says that the interests are divided into political and financial. “The issue is not only about financial benefits for smugglers or corrupt people in the country, but also about political benefits, as the Turkish government uses it as a pressure card on the European Union,” Kamal says.
“Turkey is a stable country in terms of security, and there is no disturbance as in Libya, so the big activity of smuggling operations can only be carried out with the approval of the state,” Kamal points out, adding that the Turkish government is considered as a beneficiary of smuggling operations.
Kemal indicates that when the Turkish government signed the agreement with the European Union in 2016, it proved that it was involved in human trafficking in Europe, especially as it managed to control the border and prevent any refugee boat from crossing the sea. After tension between Ankara and the EU on gas issues, Turkish intervention in Syria, Libya and terrorism issues, Turkey returned to its old activities.
It is noteworthy that official Greek statistics revealed that there are 2000 to 3000 migrants on the Western coast of Turkey, waiting for sailing toward Greece, of whom 214 have arrived to Lesbos, including 142 Somalis.