Turkey, Afghanistan may hit drug traffickers by fighting human traffickers: Diplomat

Turkey, Afghanistan may hit drug traffickers by fighting human traffickers: Diplomat

Ali Kayalar - ISTANBUL
Turkey, Afghanistan may hit drug traffickers by fighting human traffickers: Diplomat

Turkey and Afghanistan might strike a blow against drug traffickers by struggling together against a “human trafficking mafia,” which are both actually part of the same group, according to a Kabul diplomat, who has also called on Iran to join the efforts. 

“These human traffickers are the same people who are involved in drug trafficking. You can kill two birds with one stone,” Afghanistan Consul General to Istanbul Zekria Barakzai told the Hürriyet Daily News on April 10 on the recent influx from his country to Turkey via Iran.

His remarks followed Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s visit to Afghanistan over the weekend, where he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other statesmen amid reports on a large number of undocumented Afghans trying to enter Turkey through Iran in addition to those who are waiting at the borders.

The Turkish Interior Ministry is conducting a productive plan to cut illegal Afghan migrant inflow, Yıldırım said on April 8 in the Afghan capital.

“Our brothers who have come to Turkey through legal ways are more than welcome here. But those who come via illegal ways are causing trouble,” he said, adding that mutual efforts were also ongoing.

Afghan security units have conducted broad operations against the drug traffickers particularly in the provinces of Helmand and Farah, and a massive operation is also underway, Barakzai said.

The U.S. and Afghan forces have expanded their air strikes against drug labs into western Afghanistan, aiming to cut revenues of Taliban, Reuters reported on April 8.

The campaign targeting Afghan drug labs began as opium production jumped 87 percent last year to a record high amount in Afghanistan, the world’s main heroin source.

The Taliban, which U.S. officials say controls the drug trade, has made large territorial gains since a U.S. troop reduction of recent years.

The drug lab campaign began in November, and has now included 75 strikes, especially in Helmand, a major poppy-growing province.

Three proposals to Turkey

The Afghan government has three proposals to Turkey to curb the influx of undocumented migrants, which concerns the security of Turkey and other countries, according to Barakzai.

Turkey needs to “tackle human traffickers and also pressure Iran to also be part of this trilateral engagement of anti-human trafficking networks,” he said.

“There should be intelligence sharing and joint efforts,” he added, blaming “some circles” of benefiting from the influx.

“We see reports that these refugees are used by the Iranian regime to recruit them in the Fatimun brigade to fight in Syria, which is totally unacceptable,” he said.

A second step is providing incentives for those who legally reside in Turkey or those who want to come to Turkey legally for investment, education, health or other legitimate reasons.

“If you suddenly close all legal ways, this would increase chances for human traffickers,” he said.

A third suggestion is launching a public awareness campaign “to give first-hand information about the situation of the refugees in Turkey and immigration laws that will help people understand the consequences of entering Turkey illegally.”

Commenting on the reasons for the rise in the number of undocumented migrants, the diplomat cited insecurity and lack of information on life of refugees in Turkey in addition to an “illusion” created by traffickers with the help of false stories.

Only last week, at least 2,500 Afghan nationals were held by Turkish security forces, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

Erzurum, Ağrı and Igdır in the country’s east and Van in the southeast are the provinces that receive most Afghan refugees.

The agency said Afghans pay $1,000 to $1,300 per person to smugglers.

Turkey, home to around 3.5 million Syrian refugees, deported hundreds of Afghan migrants back home on special flights, in a major operation over the weekend.

Doğan News Agency quoted migration officials in Erzurum as saying Turkey planned to deport all 3,000 undocumented Afghan migrants who were currently in Erzurum.

Barakzai said teams from the Istanbul consulate were on the ground in several provinces to help Turkish authorities identify the undocumented migrants from Afghanistan.