The marks left by irregular Afghan migrants who were able to cross the new wall built on the border between Turkey and Iran are not just the last footprints and a few plastic bottles, but the grave impact of migration will reappear. As the Taliban's re-takeover of power in Kabul puts the future of many Afghans in uncertainty, this aroused fears of an impact similar to the migration crisis experienced in border countries and Europe in the last few years. It is seen that the number of irregular migrants who managed to cross the safe border between Iran and Turkey, the neighboring country of Afghanistan, has started to increase. However, according to the United Nations report, "large-scale" migration movements have not been recorded at the Afghan borders at the moment, and it was announced that the number of Afghans arriving in Europe decreased by about 40 percent in the first six months of this year.
Considering the unofficial figures, it is mentioned that there are nearly 7 million immigrants in Turkey. The wave of immigration from Afghanistan had begun before the Taliban took control of Kabul. Speaking to the BBC on 12 July, a human smuggler explained how the system that brings Afghans to Turkey works. According to him, at least 50-100 people cross the border every day. Depending on the day, this number can reach 300. In 2015, this figure was around 1000, 2000 people. The smuggler, who claims that the border crossings continue, thinks that the worsening of the situation in Afghanistan will increase immigration.
WORLD WITHOUT LIMITS!
The stories of this human smuggler, who hides his name and face, almost make us question what kind of world we live in. We are living in a world where human life is no longer important. On the one hand, people trying to escape from their homes, their homeland, without taking any belongings with them, perhaps leaving their loved ones behind, and trying to hold on to life in countries where they do not speak the language, on the other hand, today's human traffickers, who carry these people from country to country under terrible conditions to earn some money. The dirty trade between them demonstrates how irregular migrants are brought into the system and how the system works.
Afghan smuggler says he started human trafficking business after he came to Turkey. He states that other Afghans like him are doing this job in Turkey by adding that there are also Turks among them. He describes the process of a person who wants to leave Afghanistan with the following words: “Those who want to come to Turkey from Afghanistan find a smuggler there. His relatives may have come before. He asks them and finds the smuggler. Smugglers work with each other. They take the man… On their way from Afghanistan to Iran, they first go to Pakistan. I don't know the Pakistani part exactly. When they go to Iran, there is a city called Bam, they first go there. Then they go up to Isfahan from there. They are on their way from Tabriz to Hoy. They also come here (Turkey) from Hoy. To the Doğu Beyazıt or Van side.”
The smuggler says that migrants mostly walk while crossing the borders, and are taken by car inside the country. He explains the cooperation between smugglers by saying that Afghanistan's smuggler leaves the migrants to Pakistani smugglers, Pakistani smugglers leave them to Iran's smugglers, and Iran's smugglers leave them to Turkey's smugglers. He states that the cost of going from Afghanistan to Iran is 500 dollars per person, while it is 1000 dollars to come to Turkey. The cost of crossing to Europe via Turkey is much higher.
According to the smuggler's statements, these human traffickers establish cooperation between them through telephones. He says that they communicate with immigrants through applications called Whatsapp and Imo. They do not cross borders with immigrants. They give some directions like “Walk for two hours from here, then our men will pick you up at the border.” Their organization is also highly developed. There are high-level employees and lower-level employees in the field in the human trafficking business. And the shepherds helping them! He says that the shepherds inform them whether there are soldiers at the borders in return for money.
SECURITY ON THE TURKEY-IRAN BORDER
The Turkish-Iranian border consists of an area of 560 kilometers. In order to prevent illegal crossings and smuggling activities and to increase security at the border, a security wall is being built on Van's 64-kilometer border with Iran. The wall, which was started on the Iranian border of Van's Çaldıran district, will extend to Doğubayazıt in Ağrı and Yüksekova line of Hakkari. A wall is planned to be built on the entire 295-kilometer border of Van with Iran by the end of the year. The wall, which is 3 meters high, 2 meters 80 centimeters wide, and 7 tons of concrete blocks, does not protect the border alone, it is only a helpful factor for the border troops. As a matter of fact, it shouldn't be easy to maintain such a long line.
The smuggler also talks about the security measures on the Turkey-Iran border. He underlines that the flow of irregular migrants has decreased relatively due to the effect of the pandemic, but that the reduction of measures with the arrival of summer also causes an increase in their number. The smuggler, who stated that fewer soldiers were deployed in some parts of the borders, clarifies the contrast between Iran and Turkey on this issue. When Turkey expands the measures and increases the number of soldiers, Iran leaves, and when Iran increases security, Turkey relaxes.
He also expresses his views on the built wall as follows: “The wall is not too high. They put ladders over the wall, they dig under the wall. So the wall prevented our work, but not that much.” Here, it is important to taken under control by soldiers rather than overcoming the concrete blocks. He adds also that the shepherds on the Iranian or Turkish border say, “Now it's available, pass thought quickly.” Even worse, he claims that the soldiers also cooperate for money. He states that he does not know about the Turkish soldiers, but that the Iranian soldiers left the border empty: “(Iranian Soldiers) They are informing us. They say there are only two hours left, whatever you do.”
BORDERS SHOULD NOT BE THE ONLY ADDRESS TO FIGHT MIGRATION
The number of walls built against security threats is increasing worldwide. As of today, concrete walls appear to protect borders in more than 70 countries. However, it would not be right to expect that these walls will completely stop the flow of migration. Walls certainly have psycho-political effects. However, although such walls help reduce the number of people who can pass through the concrete blocks, it is inevitable that migrants will move towards areas where no walls are built and determine new routes. In addition, the entire border line between Turkey and Iran does not consist of land suitable for building a wall. It is said that measures such as the number of ditches, wire fences, and watchtowers at the borders, the number of sending of more military units, the constant monitoring of the borders with unmanned aerial vehicles are said to be increased. However, the fact that the topography of the border is mostly mountainous is an indication that these measures do not work well everywhere. In particular, the control of mountainous, rugged, and high-altitude regions will become more difficult in winter conditions.
The biggest cost of irregular migration is experienced in security and social areas. The economic cost is also huge. Borders must be highly secured to limit migration. However, there must be things to be done before the migrants reaches the border. A smuggler's words shed light on the outline of the plan that had to be drawn. It is necessary to announce sternly that the borders in Turkey are closed and that no irregular migrants will be accepted under any circumstances. Realizing the impassability of the border can be a factor in deterrence. However, there is a need for continuous and strict security checks.
And above all, borders should not be the only address in the fight against immigration. Various measures should be taken for all parts of the country. However, the most important thing is to identify and punish the groups that involved in illegal business in Turkey, and to start the fight against the smuggling mafia as soon as possible. It is possible to understand the gravity of the matter from the words of the smuggler. “I am not afraid of being arrested. We don't have much danger. We are at the top level… There is a possibility that more low-level people will be caught… (Some smugglers) are working with the Mafia. Some of them have men in the police.”
Dr. Selmin Seda Coskun