Afghanistan’s Consul General to Istanbul Zekria Barakzai said on Tuesday that drug smugglers and human trafficking syndicates working between Afghanistan and Turkey are part of the same group.
In an interview with Hürriyet Daily News, Barakzai said security forces should hit drug traffickers by fighting human smugglers.
“These human traffickers are the same people who are involved in drug trafficking. You can kill two birds with one stone,” he said.
This statement was made in relation to the recent influx of undocumented migrants from Afghanistan to Turkey via Iran and came just days after Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim visited Kabul.
On Sunday, Yildirim said the Turkish Interior Ministry is conducting a productive plan to cut illegal Afghan migrant inflow.
“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.
However, Barakzai said on Tuesday, the Afghan security forces have conducted large-scale operations against the drug traffickers particularly in Helmand and Farah province and that currently a massive operation is underway.
He told the Hürriyet Daily News the Afghan government has three proposals to Turkey to curb the influx of undocumented migrants.
According to him, Turkey needs to “tackle human traffickers and also pressure Iran to also be part of this trilateral engagement of anti-human trafficking networks.”
“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.”
Barakzai told the newspaper, the reasons for the rise in undocumented migrants was 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.
According to Anadolu news agency, last week alone saw Turkish security forces arrest at least 2,500 Afghan nationals.
Anadolu reported that Afghans pay $1,000 USD to $1,300 USD per person to smugglers.
Hürriyet Daily News meanwhile also reported that Turkey had 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.
Last week Hürriyet Daily News reported that 20,000 undocumented Afghan migrants had arrived in Turkey in the past week three months.
The report said that a total of 17,847 undocumented Afghan migrants have been captured by security forces from the beginning of 2018 until March 29.
The same period has seen 9,426 Syrian migrants, 5,311 Pakistani migrants and 4,270 Iraqi migrants.
Nearly 500 undocumented Afghan migrants try to enter Turkey per day, which has prompted security forces to examine the case in detail, Hürriyet Daily News reported.
As part of the investigation, the Directorate of Anti-Human Trafficking has been established in the eastern province of Erzurum, a hotspot used by migrants to go to Istanbul.
But as the drug problem increases in Afghanistan, the US and Afghan forces have ramped up their campaigns to destroy drug factories and recently expanded their air strikes against drug labs into western Afghanistan.
This ramped up campaign comes after opium production jumped by 87 percent last year to a record high – making Afghanistan the world’s number one source of heroin.