As follows from the report of the EU border agency Frontex, the number of migrants who have illegally crossed the borders into the EU in the last 11 months has reached 1.55 million people. Last November alone was marked by 269,000 refugees crossing the EU border, while back in 2014 the total number of illegal migrants coming into Europe barely reached 283,000 people. The most commonly used route by refugees heading to the EU is the Western Balkan one, which accounts for 164,000 people arriving in Europe last November. In the last 11 months, according to Frontex, this route was used by 667,000 illegal migrants.
The flow of illegal migration is strongly criminalized, moreover they are often used by extremist groups to infiltrate the EU. But the bitter part is that slavery and prostitution – tends to be the most common fate that awaits migrants in Europe. Criminal gangs often prey on the most vulnerable refugees, such as young women and children, writes the Daily Telegraph.
At a recent international conference on combating human trafficking that was held in Madrid, the head of Europol, Brian Donald, stressed the fact that it is often the young refugees that are being victimized by criminal gangs that sell them into slavery or force them into prostitution. Some 7,000 children arriving in Europe were not accompanied by their parents, authorities say, but the actual number of such children, according to Brian Donald, is significantly larger.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the international and the European community is watching closely the flows of illegal migrants into Europe in order to develop measures to put an end to the massive migration from the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a significant number of migrants come to Europe via Turkey. Although the number of migrants coming to Europe from Turkey and across the Greek border has been halved lately, in previous months over 100,000 men were coming along this route each month. The main reason for the reduction in the flow of migrants that is largely formed by refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq is extreme weather conditions.
It’s been reported that Turkish mafia cartels exercise full control over smuggling operations. They have become the topic of a detailed journalist investigation published by the Financial Times. Its authors provided us with sufficiently detailed information on various boats used by the Turkish smugglers to ferry refugees to Europe and the careful planning that is involved in the organization of illegal migrant flows. Thus, according to this journal, those who pay the Mafia can buy boats at small factories near Ankara for 400 dollars, while those who are reluctant to deal with criminals are forced to pay 6,000 dollars even for smaller vessels. In the Turkish port of Cesme, the control over the transportation of illegal migrants has been taken over by organized mafia groups, and migrants are forced to pay 1,000 dollars to even get on a boat.
Even though Turkey arrested over 800 people for smuggling after signing a preliminary agreement with the EU on the managing of illegal migrant flows, one can hardly hope there’s going to be any serious change in Turkey, since the criminals that have been arrested will be replaced next year by those willing to be engaged in “Turkish-style business”.
The role of Turkish criminal organizations in the set up of large-scale human smuggling is now being investigated by the Finnish Border Guard. According to Finnish authorities, organized criminal groups have smuggled at least 100 people from Iraq via Turkey to Finland, while netting a profit of well over 10,000 euros.
Turkey’s actions towards refugees raises questions not only among European law-enforcement agencies, but also in international human rights organizations. Thus, Amnesty International notes that Turkey hasn’t been respecting even the basic human rights of refugees that are being held in detention centers since the start of negotiations with the European Union. According to the report, they are being detained without the right to any contact with the outside world, and Turkish officials cunningly present them with a choice: either they stay in prison indefinitely or get sent back to their homeland, Syria or Iraq, where they risk persecution, torture and death. Thus, Turkey’s actions contradict international humanitarian law.
Similar centers have been set up in Turkey with the money provided by the EU. The EU representative in Ankara confirmed that such refugee centers established in accordance with the agreement between Brussels and Ankara, are in fact nothing more than detention centers
Under these circumstances the negative attitude towards Ankara’s actions and policies shown by different Western political forces is self-explanatory. For instance, the US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has expressed his distrust of Turkish politicians in an interview with Breitbart.
There’s no surprise that Angela Merkel’s strive to accelerate the adoption of Turkey in the European Union was met with massive criticism across the EU. Commenting on this proposal the head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage said that the things that Merkel suggests is utter and complete madness.
Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.