Human traffickers selling lies of Istanbul travel agencies -  Sunday Times

Human traffickers are operating out of travel agencies in Istanbul’s Aksaray district and advertising trips to the United Kingdom as though they were holiday packages ranging between 10,000-15,000 pounds, the Sunday Times reported.

Europe hopefuls from countries such as Iran are being offered a range of routes to Britain, as well as fake European passports, visas and identity cards, transport on aircraft, fishing boats and lorries, it said.

Turkey is one of the main transition points for migrants seeking to illegally enter Europe, but a 2016 agreement with the EU sharply cut the numbers of refugees using that route. The country hosts lose to 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, including 3.6 million Syrians.

“Don’t worry, we can get you there,” it cited the smugglers as telling one undercover reporter posing as an Iranian woman seeking to enter Europe. “You seem nice, so we’ll give you a discount.” 

The trafficker promised the woman a “jet boat” for 5,000 pounds that would take an hour instead of the 3,000-pound slower boat that would take three hours. The same person also advised against hiding in the back of a truck, which he said would be more expensive and risky due to the sophisticated cameras that France had, which “detected’’ migrants inside vehicles.

Lies like the ones being told by human traffickers in Istanbul that ledIranian Kurdish couple Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi to take their three young children, leave their home in Sardasht, the Sunday Times said, in a trip that ultimately led to their demise.

All five members of the Iranian Kurdish family drowned when the boat capsized in the English Channel in October.

The services, which are only offered online, work on deals wherein the 30 per cent is paid in cash and 70 per cent to be held in a money transfer shop in Istanbul pending the arrival of the client at their destination.

Turkish government officials did not respond to a request for comment, the Sunday Times reported.

A quick search on Perisan Instagram or Telegram reveals hundreds of posts by smugglers offering competitive rates to the UK. The majority of such posts “vastly exaggerate’’ the ease of finding work in Britain and minimise the dangers involved, it said.

Sunday Times’ undercover reporters were told by smugglers in tighter border controls along the “Balkan route” meant that migrants are increasingly taken from the Turkish coast to mainland Italy by fishing boat in an arduous four-day journey. 

It is from there that those who want to go to Britain head for the French north coast, where they make contact with another trafficker, the Sunday Times said.

“I’d never have let that family go out on a boat in that weather,” one smuggler said. “We make sure it’s safe before we send the boat. Some of the other guys are just trying to make money.”