Emrullah Bayrak Emrullah

Turkey becoming final destination for illegal migrants, study shows

Turkey, which has long been a transit country, particularly to Europe, for illegal »»

Turkey, which has long been a transit country, particularly to Europe, for illegal migrants, is gradually becoming a final destination with an increasing number of people seeking a better future for themselves in this country over the past several years, a recent survey has shown.

The results of the survey, titled “Illegal Immigration and Immigrants in Turkey: Characteristics, Methods and Profiles,” carried out by the International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime (UTSAM), were announced at the Anıttepe campus of the Ankara Police Academy on Monday.

The survey was conducted over two years, from 2009-11, across 14 provinces of Turkey. Aiming to shed light on the problem of illegal migration in Turkey, the survey was carried out through face-to-face interviews with 86 illegal migrants, 54 human smugglers and 75 experts. Data from 1,334 illegal immigrants and 106 human smugglers was compiled.

According to the survey Turkey is still being used as a transit country by 62 percent of illegal migrants, but a further 28 percent see Turkey as a final destination, and this figure is growing rapidly. Turkish security forces captured 27,710 illegal migrants in Turkey in 2009, 25,144 in 2010 and 35,709 in 2011. Most of the illegal migrants who end their search for a better life in Turkey settle in big cities such as İstanbul and İzmir. They are usually unqualified young men with a low income and low education level, but there are also illegal migrant families with children. The illegal migrants, most of whom come from Afghanistan, arrive in Turkey by land or sea, hiding in automobiles, trailers, trucks, buses, minibuses or makeshift boats.

Eighty-eight percent of illegal migrants coming to Turkey are male. The average age is 26, while most are aged 19-25. One out of every four illegal migrants in Turkey does not know how to read and write, 40 percent of them are primary school graduates and 20 percent of them are secondary school graduates. According to the study, most illegal migrants work in the construction sector. Seventy-four percent of participants in the survey said they left their country to earn a living; 5.4 percent said they had to leave their country due to war; 2.7 percent said they had to leave due to political reasons, while another 2.7 percent said they left for family reunification.

Eighty-five percent of illegal migrants said they received help from human smugglers  to cross the border while 15 percent said they did not.

According to the study, human smugglers  are largely Turkish citizens aged between 30 and 40 and married, with a low level of education. According to UTSAM’s study, 9,327 human smugglers  of Turkish origin were arrested in Turkey between 2001 and 2010, while 224 Iraqi, 165 Iranian, 89 Pakistani and 65 Afghan human smugglers  were arrested in the country over the same period.

It is estimated that a human trafficker earns around $10,000 for every illegal migrant, although this figure changes according to the role and position of the human trafficker. According to the study, human smugglers  made a profit of $235,553,000 from illegal migrants in 2009, $206,180,000 in 2010 and $303,520,000 in 2011.

UTSAM President Associate Professor Süleyman Özeren said the goal of the study is not only scientific research but also to make proposals for the resolution of the illegal migration issue and problems faced by illegal migrants.

Bülent Çiçekli, one of the coordinators of the study, said it aimed to define potential future illegal migration in Turkey, and offered his thanks to various institutions that contributed to the project.

The study suggests that illegal migration can be prevented through the combined efforts of relevant national and international institutions.

PKK terrorists mingle with illegal immigrants to infiltrate Turkey

According to UTSAM’s study, terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) mingle with illegal immigrants to be able to infiltrate Turkey, and the PKK extorts money from human smugglers  for the passage of illegal migrants crossing the borders. The report revealed that illegal migration is a significant source of income for the PKK, and therefore that combating the practice will have a positive impact on the fight against terrorism.

The report also revealed that neither Iran nor Syria takes any measures at their borders, as per Turkey’s request, to ensure border security and prevent the activities of the PKK and KCK -- an umbrella organization allegedly encompassing the PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.

Most of the illegal migrants travelling to Turkey enter the country over land borders, predominantly from terror-stricken provinces such as Van, Ağrı, Şırnak, Hakkari and Iğdır in the east and Hatay in the south.

The survey lists further effects of illegal migration on Turkey as:

  •  It is thought the PKK/KCK make a financial gain from criminal activities regarding illegal immigration
  •  Cheap labor provided by illegal migrants damages the country’s economy and recorded employment levels as it leads to inaccurate records of employment and unemployment
  •  Illegal migrants may suffer from health problems that could pose a serious threat to the health of the nation. They also pose a threat to public safety through involvement in criminal activities
  •  Inadequate measures against illegal migration make Turkey a target of unjust criticisms on international platforms, and this issue is used against Turkey in membership negotiations with the EU

The EU alleges that Turkey is not doing enough to tackle illegal migration from the east, claiming the country has failed to fulfill its promise to repatriate illegal migrants who pass through Turkey and are later detained in EU member states.

According to the survey, 1,711 illegal migrants, 698 of whom are in Europe, were captured in international operations between 2011 and 2012. 117 human smugglers , 17 of whom are in Europe, were also captured in the same period. A human smuggler wanted by Italian authorities was captured in Turkey and arrested. Turkish authorities also captured five boats carrying illegal migrants.



Columnist: Emrullah Bayrak