While police net small-time drug peddlers with "narco-teams," customs officers will get a boost in resources in their fight against the smuggling of drugs, a headache for Turkey that lies at the heart of a smuggling route between two continents.
Bülent Tüfenkçi, Minister of Customs and Commerce, says they invested TL 270 million ($57.1 million) in the last five years to increase the capacity for fighting against drug smuggling and it has apparently paid off, with a record rate of seizures last year. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the minister said drug seizures between January and June were 24.6 tons and that equals TL 343 million worth of drugs. For 2017, the seizure rate jumped 670 percent compared to 2016 and they confiscated some 26.4 tons of drugs.
Attention from customs officers and sniffer dogs, combined with sophisticated technology at border crossings, airports, ports, cargo processing centers and other places used as smuggling venues have helped the increase in seizures. Among the methods deployed are 15 mobile drug detectors able to detect 16,000 types of chemical materials and 64 X-ray scanners for shipping containers. Tüfenkçi says they also increased the patrolling of seas against smuggling and now operate 25 boats. This excludes Coast Guard boats that routinely patrol Turkish seas against drug and human smugglers.
Turkey lies on a transit route for drugs between Asia and Europe where synthetic drugs and drugs made of opium are smuggled to Middle Eastern and European countries interchangeably. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says the Balkan route that traverses Iran, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria across southeastern Europe to the western the European market is a main heroin trafficking corridor. Smugglers, often those working for terrorist groups or aided by them, mostly use ships and trucks for transporting drugs to and from Turkey. The escalation of security measures along Turkey's southern border with war-torn Syria curbed smuggling but shipments of illegal drugs via the Aegean and Mediterranean seas remain a concern for Turkish authorities.