Turkey detains hundreds of migrants who crossed from Iran

Authorities in eastern Turkey say they have conducted a major operation against traffickers bringing migrants across the Iranian border

Turkey have detained more than 1,400 illegal migrants smuggled across the border from Iran this month amid rising concern about a surge in migrant numbers from Afghanistan as the US and Nato withdraw forces and fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces becomes heavier.

Turkey’s border with Iran has long been a smuggling route for people, mainly Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis, seeking to enter Turkey before heading west to cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.

The migrants typically hope to raise money in Turkey by working in the black market before moving on to Europe.

The governor's office in Van province, eastern Turkey, said more than 1,450 migrants were found in abandoned buildings around Mount Erek, which towers over the city of Van, since July 10.

Eleven organisers were detained in the operation, six of whom have been held in prison by a court order. Officials said that 11 barrack-style buildings for holding migrants were demolished.

Police and border agents, backed by drones, caught 27,230 migrants crossing the Iranian border this year, the governor's office said.

The vast majority of migrants seeking to reach Europe from Turkey attempt the dangerous crossing from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands in overcrowded and inflatable dinghies.

Turkish and Greek coastguard services are looking for at least eight migrants missing after a boat carrying about 45 people capsized off the island of Crete on Thursday.

Thirty-seven people, mostly from Syria and Iraq, were picked up in adverse weather after the boat sank near international waters near the Greek island, Greek port police told AFP.

Survivors said that eight to 12 other people had been on board the boat when it went down, 11 kilometres south-east of Crete, police said.

Five of those rescued were taken by helicopter to the Greek island of Karpathos on Thursday, while 30 others, including a woman and a child, were taken to the town of Ierapetra in south-east Crete.

The search operation on Friday was impeded by gale-force winds, Greek port police said.

Two Turkish frigates and a maritime patrol aircraft were also searching for the missing migrants, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

Separately, Greek police said on Friday that 11 people had been arrested on suspicion of organising the transport of migrants who crossed into Greece illegally over its land border with Turkey using pick-up trucks and luxury cars to avoid detection.

The EU’s Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation said it assisted in the investigation against the trafficking ring accused of smuggling about 350 migrants in more than 50 transfers.

Police said the people smugglers raced through the Greek border region at speeds of up to 250 kilometres an hour in luxury cars with migrants in the boot.

The gang transported vehicles registered in Bulgaria and Georgia to northern Greece and Hungary, from where they were used to smuggle migrants through the border region.

One smuggler was killed and a number of migrants and smugglers were injured in several speeding accidents, police said.

Updated: July 24th 2021, 3:37 PM
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