Nineteen out of 31 wanted suspects were arrested yesterday in nationwide operations against human smugglers. Istanbul police announced operations were carried out in six cities against an international human smuggling gang.
The gang was under surveillance by anti-smuggling units of the Istanbul police. An investigation revealed that gang members used different routes to smuggle Syrian and Iranian illegal migrants to Europe from Turkey. Thirty-one suspects were detained while 12 were later released, including nine who were released with judiciary control. Searching the locations where suspects were staying, police discovered 45 passports, 34 IDs, two boats, 30 life vests and equipment to produce forged passports, along with a large stash of euros and dollars. Police also seized three minibuses and a truck apparently used to transport illegal migrants. A total 129 illegal migrants to be smuggled abroad by the suspects were also intercepted in the operations to capture the gang members.
Turkey has become a hub for migrants seeking to illegally cross into Europe in recent years. The Greek islands near Turkey's Aegean shores are a favorite destination for migrants heading to Europe. However, journeys aboard unsafe, overcrowded boats often steered by inexperienced migrants often turn deadly. The country boosted patrols at sea and land but still struggles to stop the influx of migrants.
Human smugglers play a key role in aggravating the number of desperate migrants. Migrant smuggling has been a profitable business as the conflict in Turkey's southern neighbor Syria worsened, and smugglers continue operating, although in a much-limited capacity thanks to security operations. They charge fees as high as $2,000 to take migrants to Europe from Turkey.