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Human smugglers use Telegram to arrange transport from Turkey to Europe, US

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With statistics showing an increasing number of people leaving Turkey, a report from the Halk TV news website shows that human smugglers are helping people leave the country in exchange for payment arranged through the Telegram messaging application.

According to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat), 466,914 people left the country in 2022, 62.3 percent higher than in 2021. Among them 139,531 were Turkish citizens, while the rest were foreign nationals.

The smugglers communicate with people who want to move to Europe or the United States over the Telegram app and charge them according to their final destination.

A deteriorating economic situation in Turkey caused by high inflation, which stands at close to 50 percent, and the continuous depreciation of the Turkish lira as well as widespread human rights abuses, which increased in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016, are thought to be prompting some Turks to seek ways to leave the country for a better life in Europe and elsewhere.

One Telegram group comprises 3,375 people from Turkey who are seeking help from smugglers to leave the country. The smugglers give assurances to people that they will not be captured by security forces during their illegal journey and promise that they will be welcomed and helped after they cross Turkey’s Bulgarian border.

People who want to establish a new life in EU countries use the Balkan countries as a bridge to reach the rest of Europe.

The prices demanded by human smugglers range between 3,500 and 4,500 euros per person .

If a person wants to travel to Germany via Serbia, they are charged 3,500 euros, while this journey costs 3,200 euros for people arriving in Germany through Austria and 4,500 euros for those who want to travel to Belgium and France by way of Serbia.

Those who want to go to Italy via Bosnia and Herzegovina are supposed to pay less, around 3,000 euros.

People under a travel ban must pay more to flee the country, as much as 9,000 euros if they want to flee to Germany and 10,500 euros if France is their intended destination.

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, when the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, thousands of people had their passports revoked, prompting many of them to take risky journeys to Europe on dinghies to avoid politically motivated jail sentences.

According to data from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), there was a 203 percent increase in the number of asylum applications from Turkish citizens filed in Germany in the first seven months of 2023 compared to the same period last year.

BAMF statistics showed a total of 188,967 asylum applications were filed in Germany between January and July. Turkish citizens accounted for 23,486 of the applications, 202.9 percent higher than the number of applications in the first seven months of 2022.

People who want to establish a new life in the United States are charged by human smugglers 12,500 euros each in return for employment sponsorship in the country.

Voice of America (VOA) Turkish service reported in June, citing official data from US Customs and Border Protection, that some 33,000 Turkish citizens fleeing Turkey had entered the United States via the Mexican border in the previous 18 months.

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