1,050 foreign passports seized in Istanbul raids

1,050 foreign passports seized in Istanbul raids

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
1,050 foreign passports seized in Istanbul raids

DHA photo

Turkish police have seized more than 1,000 foreign passports and detained eight suspects in raids on multiple homes as part of an operation that targeted human smugglers in Istanbul. 

A total of eight suspects were detained on Feb. 3 in the operation that came weeks after a historic deal with the EU to stem the migrant flow to the 28-member-state union in exchange for 3 billion euros aid for Syrian migrants living in the Turkish soil.

Teams from the Istanbul police’s anti-smuggling bureau conducted simultaneous operations against a migrant smuggling group in 14 addresses in Istanbul’s Fatih, Bakırköy, Büyükçekmece, Bağcılar, Arnavutköy, Küçükçekmece, Esenyurt and Zeytinburnu districts after a tip-off which was followed by a six-month pursuit.

Some 1050 original passports belonging to 50 different countries, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland were seized during searches conducted inside the raided houses. Some 33 identity cards and driving licenses, along with 200 boarding cards and 10 seals from Istanbul’s Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports, were also seized.

Police also caught a total of 197 suspects, including Syrians, Afghans and Iranians, before leaving Turkey with their prepared passports. However, one suspect, who was thought to be the leader of the group and identified as H.K., could not be found. It has also been reported the migrant smuggling organization had offered migrants a guaranteed departure for $15,000 and used original passports for them to use during their departure.

The move came less than a week after Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said human trafficking activities across Turkey would be treated as terrorist acts and that legal measures would be taken against perpetrators of such activities.

Human trafficking as ‘terror crime’

“It has been principally decided to enact legal measures against human trafficking so that it is regarded a terror crime,” Kurtulmuş told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Feb. 1, adding that legal provisions would also be passed to confiscate equipment used in human trafficking while increasing the sentence for the crimes.

Kurtulmuş also said a border security draft was ready at the Prime Ministry and that the regulations for the coordination of border management had been signed.

Turkish administration decided to enact legal measures to ensure human trafficking is treated as a terror crime, Kurtulmuş iterated, elaborating on an action plan drafted to step up efforts in border security in endeavor for crackdown on human traffickers.

Turkey and the European Union hammered out a deal at the end of 2015 to block the flow of migrants to Europe.