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Research Report

Migrant Smuggling in Turkey:: The ‘Other’ Side of the Refugee Crisis

Merve Umay KADER
Süeda Esma ŞEN
Mehmet Onur ÖNCAN
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2016
Pages: 54
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-10)

    Aylan Kurdi, whose tiny, lifeless body washed up on the shores of Turkey’s Bodrum province in September 2015, has become one of the most prominent symbols of what has now come to be known as the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

    Yet the story behind the boy is what remains the most disturbing, as it reflects the deeper, darker side of the crisis: migrant smuggling. Here, the most complicated and confusing aspect of the tragedy surrounding Aylan’s death is that the boy’s father is claimed to be his son’s smuggler.

    Migrant smuggling in Turkey is usually portrayed and...

  2. (pp. 11-16)

    For the last twenty years, Western countries have been shutting their doors on humanitarian migrants. Control-based migration policies, which are intensifying by the day in the Global North, increase the tendency of cross border migration through illegal means as legal options become more difficult.

    This tendency facilitates the intersection of migrants’ paths with migrant smuggling gangs, as the latter find timely and local solutions that function to overcome legal restrictions. Their services include “transportation, temporary accommodation, providing forged identification documents, bribing border officials, together with several other auxiliary activities depending on specific local and temporal circumstances”.⁴ Increases made to border...

  3. (pp. 17-20)

    The demographic complexity of migrant mobility generates five major challenges in terms of combating migrant smuggling occurring between Turkey and Europe, especially after the increase of migrant flows as a result of the Syrian Crisis.

    The first challenge is the demand in Turkey that has resulted in migrant smuggling becoming a majorly lucrative sector. According to Europol, migrant smuggling operations netted up to €6 billion last year. Although it is difficult to confirm how much of this amount was generated in Turkey, based on rough estimates, of that €6 billion, nearly €500 million was generated in Turkey. Considering the daily...

  4. (pp. 21-38)

    There are three major routes used by migrant smugglers to reach Europe.

    The first is the Western Mediterranean route, which is mostly used by migrants and asylum seekers from sub Saharan Africa via Morocco and Spain. This route was widely used up until the beginning of the 2000s, but it has lost its popularity due to the “cooperation between Spain and Morocco […] which has kept migrant numbers comparatively low on this route. Migrants are more inclined to depart from Libya, rather than Morocco, because the likelihood of being returned by EU authorities is much lower”.21 The second route is...

  5. (pp. 39-46)

    The Joint Action Plan signed between Turkey and the EU on October 15, 2015 constitutes a mutual step taken with the aim of preventing irregular migration and dismantling migrant smuggling networks that have gained prominence amid the escalation of the Syrian Crisis.

    The plan is called as “dirty deal” because it represents the replacement of the perpetual blame-game between the EU and Turkey with an interest-based approach,58 and also because it sets the stage for the enactment of implementations that have never been tried before. Therefore it is still being questioned whether the JAP will provide solutions for irregular migration...

  6. (pp. 47-51)

    As the Syrian Crisis comes to transcend national borders and as Ankara’s open-door policy continues to fall short of ensuring any form of comprehensive integration, Turkey has become one of the largest international hubs for migrant smuggling.

    Within the scope of the JAP that was signed between the EU and Turkey on October 15, 2015, Turkey is expected to stem the flow of irregular migration to the EU along with its criminal dimension: migrant smuggling. However, as indicated in Migrant Smuggling in Turkey: the “other” side of the refugee crisis, migrant smuggling has come to assume a highly competitive, ad...