Minister: 3,700+ migrant smugglers arrested in 2023

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has revealed last year’s statistics in the fight against migrant smuggling, with over 3,700 smuggling organizers apprehended in 2023, according to a recent report.

Throughout the year, nearly 10,500 suspects were detained in operations, leading to the arrest of 3,744 individuals, while around 1,500 were subjected to judicial control decisions, Yerlikaya announced on Jan. 31.

In addition, approximately 371,000 foreigners, whose visas, visa protection or residence periods had expired, left the country voluntarily, the minister said on X.

Furthermore, Yerlikaya highlighted that 82,000 Syrians returned to their homeland last year, while nearly 224,000 irregular migrants were prevented from entering the country through security systems at the borders.

On the domestic front, the minister informed that 254,000 irregular migrants were apprehended through operations and inspections carried out by mobile immigration points.

Originally launched as a pilot program in Istanbul, these mobile points streamline the process of verifying the migration status of foreigners. Law enforcement officers at these points conduct fingerprinting and database checks to identify irregular migrants. Those found in violation of laws are subsequently transferred to removal centers.

Expanding its reach, the program was then introduced in the capital Ankara, İzmir, Adana and Bursa last October and has been operational in 25 other metropolitan cities as of December.

“We will never give an opportunity to migrant smugglers who deceive people through hope-mongering, drag thousands of people to death on migration routes, and try to turn our country into a target and transit route for irregular migration,” Yerlikaya wrote in his post. “We will continue to be on the neck of migrant smuggling organizers for the peace and security of our country.”

In a separate announcement, Yerlikaya declared the dismantling of an organized crime syndicate led by Ahmet Söylemez. Simultaneous operations were conducted in four provinces – namely Istanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır and Mersin – resulting in the detention of nine suspects.

The minister revealed that the crime group had been extorting money from business people and carrying out armed attacks against those who refused to comply.

“We will crack down on organized crime organizations of any size and bring them to justice,” he vowed.

Türkiye, strategically positioned as a crucial point for the transit of irregular migrants to Europe over the past decade, is actively engaged in migration talks with several countries.