Human trafficking plagues Turkey, a country that is a transit route between Asia and Europe and situated in a region mired in conflicts and economic troubles. Ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, officials released the numbers of people who fell victim to human trafficking in Turkey.
Abdullah Ayaz, acting president of the state-run Migration Directorate, says about 70 percent of human trafficking victims in the country are those who were victims of sexual abuse or women trafficked for sex. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Ayaz also noted a change in the profile of trafficking victims with the influx of Syrian refugees and since 2014, Syrians also make up majority of victims, and trafficking for forced labor and begging saw an increase.
Every day, children, women and men are exploited by traffickers, convincing or forcing people into labor, prostitution, domestic servitude, begging, stealing and sometimes, selling their organs.
In Turkey, trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, constitute main form of trafficking. Abdullah Ayaz says the general profile of sexual exploitation victims is citizens of the former Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc who faced financial troubles. "With the promise of a better life, they are being brought to Turkey and end up victims," he says. In the ‘90s, Turkey saw a massive influx of people from former Soviet republics and many still call Turkey home.
Ayaz says recent developments in the region also triggered a new influx of migrants and changed the profile of trafficking victims, pointing out a rise in the number of Syrian victims, forced into labor and begging, especially among children.
Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world and strives to address to their needs, while granting citizenship to thousands.
Turkey follows international protocols to fight human trafficking and offers protection to human trafficking victims by laws and regulation. The country provides assistance to victims and in 2017 alone, 303 victims were offered assistance, Ayaz says. The migration authority issues residence permits, gives free health services, hires lawyers and eases work permit procedures for trafficking victims while also giving them accommodation at migration centers.