Residents of Turkish province on Iranian border demand end to human trafficking

Trafficking of migrants and refugees across the Turkish-Iranian border is “done very comfortably” in the eastern Turkish province of Van, and has become a lucrative business, residents of the province told daily Evrensel on Saturday.

“Half of the migrants die of hunger or the cold on the way here,” Van resident Mustafa Kale told Evrensel. “The state must prevent this. Trafficking is very common here, how could the state not know?”

“Security forces must be in on this, otherwise nobody could smuggle anybody,” another resident, Casim Sami, said.

Smuggling and trafficking routes go through the province, and many people perish as they make their way from Iran to Turkey, resident Muhammed Yaylacı said. “Doesn’t anybody check them along the way?” he asked, referring to migrants attempting to cross Lake Van to get to safer territory farther from the border.

On June 27, a migrant boat carrying an estimated 60 to 100 migrants and refugees capsized in the lake. Twenty one bodies were discovered by July 12, and the death toll rose to 61 by July 25.

“Either let these people pass, or show them where to go,” resident Murat Alak said. “They die either on the border or in the lake. This must be resolved.”

Van Bar Association Refugees Commission issued a report on Wednesday, calling the deaths a “massacre” rather than an “accident”.

Traffickers sell counterfeit passports and identity cards, as well as refugee cards issued by Turkey’s Migration Directorate, according to the report.

Eleven people were detained in relation to the capsizing incident. However, the bar association report said no charges were brought against previously captured traffickers, and that a culture of impunity was the norm within Turkey’s legal mechanisms regarding trafficking.

The Turkish authorities seek to capture and deport migrants and refugees, instead of making available effective asylum procedures, the report said, and police and army checkpoints along roads push migrants to try more dangerous routes.

Refugees interviewed for the report told the Van Bar Association that they did not want to wait in uncertainty in Turkey, but rather to cross into Europe as soon as possible to properly seek asylum.

Turkey grants temporary protection status to asylum seekers based on UNCHR procedures, but does not accept refugees except from European nations.