Turkish interior ministry launches probe into municipalities over human trafficking reports

Turkey’s interior ministry has launched an investigation into six more municipalities following reports of the local governments allegedly aiding hundreds of people to cross into Europe illegally, Bianet news site reported on Monday.

The municipalities are accused of working with a number of civil society organisations to facilitate trips to various countries in Europe for Turkish civilians by providing them with service passports, which are issued for civil servants and do not require visas to travel, it said.

Included in the latest probe are municipalities run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİ).  

The ministry’s investigation is focusing on the municipality of Gömeç in northwest Balıkesir province, Gölbaşı in southeastern Adıyaman province and Yeşilova in southern Burdur province, Yerköy municipality in central Yozgat province, as well as the Suruç municipality in southeastern Urfa province, as well as the municipality of Korgan in central Ordu province, according to Bianet.

The municipalities worked with civil society groups to send Turkish nationals to various dance performances, cultural tours and youth programmes, including environmental awareness workshops in Europe, according to reports. 

The probe follows a string of reports on dozens of Turks left for such events abroad, never to return. Deputies from Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Germany’s Die Linke have launched inquiries in their respective parliaments over the claims.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry last week announced that it had dismissed five municipal officials in the Yeşilyurt municipality of eastern Malatya province following claims of irregularities in the issuance of service passports, according to Bianet.