The migration is defined as moving from one place to another in the most general sense. People have migrated for various reasons throughout history and continue.
The phenomenon of immigration, which is essentially human and contains a wide range of issues, is in a sensitive area that needs to be dwelled on. Migration; It is handled and investigated in various ways depending on its causes, types, volume and duration.
Migrations are considered as national and international, depending on the destination, voluntary and involuntary depending on the reason of occurrence, regular and irregular migration depending on the legal situation. It can occur individually or massively, depending on its volume. Within the scope of the article, irregular immigration movements towards Turkey and the problem of migrant smuggling, which is a legal crime that we often encounter during these movements, are discussed.
In this context, first of all, irregular migration movements and the current situation in our country are discussed, and then irregular migration movements are evaluated with the dimension of migrant smuggling.
The Concept of Irregular Immigration
Considering the conceptualizations regarding migration movements, it is noteworthy that the concepts of origin or source country, transit country and destination country are frequently used in the literature. It is important to explain these concepts while dealing with irregular migration movements. Country of origin means the country of immigration or abandonment; destination country means the receiving country and the country to be reached.
The countries that must be crossed between the country of origin and the destination country are called transit countries (IOM, 2020). Legally, countries are expected to comply with national and international legislation in migration movements, and to fulfill the necessary documents and acceptance conditions. The arrangements made with bilateral agreements are effective in these movements, which are called regular migration movements and involve traveling from the country of origin to the destination country by obtaining the necessary legal permissions (Özgüler, 2018).
In irregular migration movements, there is a violation of the legal procedures included in regular migration movements. This situation arises in two ways. Illegal entry or continuing to stay in the host country despite the expiry of the visa reveals the concept of irregular migrants (Karagueuzian and Verdier-Chouchane, 2014).
Therefore, it is possible to say that an immigration movement that started regularly at the beginning can turn into an irregular migration movement after violation of legal procedures.
Irregular Migration Towards Turkey
The fact that Turkey is a natural bridge between Europe and Asia makes our country a transit country that frequently receives irregular immigration. Political and economic instabilities in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern neighboring countries cause people to migrate. Since 2011, especially after the Syrian crisis, millions of people have stood at Turkey’s border gate and demanded asylum.
According to statistics published in March 2021, there are 3,665,946 Syrian refugees registered in Turkey. 1,737,502 of this population are under the age of 18 (Mülteci-Der, 2021). However, it is known that irregular migrants of Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani origin frequently violate the borders, especially from our Eastern borders. The fact that people are deprived of even the most basic rights of life in their own countries, being exposed to violence and having concerns for the future push them to migrate to developed countries for a better life (Gulzar et. al. 2021). However, this migration process is not easy at all.
Migration movements create many new socio-economic, demographic and political situations in terms of both emigration and receiving countries.”
Castles and Miller, 2014
Especially when it comes to the sudden forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, there are many new situations that need to be resolved. Migration movements create many new socio-economic, demographic and political situations in terms of both emigration and receiving countries (Castles and Miller, 2014).
Problems such as having different needs of different social groups among migrants after migration, employment, education, accommodation, meeting basic needs, social and cultural adaptation problems, prejudiced attitudes of the settled people, immigration and identity problems, national border security come to the fore (Klaus, Duszczyk and Pszczółkowska, 2020).
For all these reasons, countries increase their border security especially against refugee influxes and impose restrictions on admission according to the capacities they can receive. This situation frequently brings up the issues of border security of the countries, and countries adopt much stricter immigration policies. While the countries have a moderate approach towards the immigrants that they can choose and evaluate, they are strict in accepting the groups that they cannot choose and which are more conceptualized as asylum seekers and refugees to their countries.
This situation pushes people who cannot regularly meet the conditions of immigration but cannot live in their own countries to illegal ways and creates the problem of migrant smuggling (Allsopp, Vosyliūtė and Smialowski, 2020). While the countries have a moderate approach towards the immigrants that they can choose and evaluate, they are strict in accepting the groups that they cannot choose and which are more conceptualized as asylum seekers and refugees to their countries. This situation pushes people who cannot regularly meet the conditions of immigration but cannot live in their own countries to illegal ways, and the problem of migrant smuggling.
Migrant Smuggling Problem
As stated in the relevant place, irregular migrants who cannot live in their own country for various reasons or who want to have better living conditions but cannot reach the target country legally, generally prefer to enter these countries illegally. Human trafficking or immigrant smuggling, which is defined as a crime in the legal regulations of the countries, comes to the fore as one of the methods people resort to (İçduygu, 2020).
Immigrant smuggling, according to Article 79 of the Turkish Penal Code, “allowing a foreigner to enter the country illegally or stay in the country in order to obtain financial benefits directly or indirectly, as well as enabling Turkish citizens or foreigners to go abroad” It is defined as (Turkish Penal Code, 2014).
In the Law, it was decided that immigrant smuggling is a crime and those who commit this crime will be punished with imprisonment from three to eight years and a judicial fine from one thousand to ten thousand days. Therefore, migrant smuggling is important as a problem that countries struggle and try to prevent.
Irregular Immigration Movements
In migrant smuggling, an approval and contract between the people who will flee and the smuggler, which will end in the targeted location, is characterized. The smuggling of migrants ends in the target country and the people who are helped to cross the country border are separated from the smugglers in the target country.
Researches reveal that there is a very complex network of relationships between smugglers and those who flee. Fleeing persons do not pay the entire financial payment to the smuggler at the beginning of the work, and use intermediaries for this transaction. The vehicle delivers the remaining part of the money to the smuggler on the instructions of the fleeing person after the transaction is completed. Therefore, it is seen that mutual trust is established between all these segments.
Wars, internal conflicts, economic instability in countries neighboring Turkey’s eastern and southeastern borders; it pushes people living in these regions to migrate. Especially after the Syrian Crisis, it is seen that the crime of migrant smuggling has increased in our country. Hundreds of people are moving from the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts to the Greek islands with inflatable boats, hoping for a better life, as it is constantly reflected in social media.
This dangerous journey often ends badly before reaching the land, and refugees die. Some are caught and sent back by both the Turkish Coast Guard teams and the Greek Coast Guards. This dangerous journey, where people’s lives are not secured and their lives are put at risk, is considered a violation of human rights.
According to statistical data, 15 thousand 839 people who wanted to migrate to Europe using the Aegean and the Mediterranean have lost their lives since 2014 (Mülteci-Der, 2020). Many refugee boats carrying passengers over their capacity are caught by the coast guard teams every day. The height of the numbers reveals the seriousness of the event. These people, including children and women, should be protected by comprehensive regulations to be established internationally.
Irregular migration movements are an important issue that has rapidly increased in recent years and is predicted to continue to increase. Political and economic instability of the countries, internal conflicts and wars cause people to leave their places and turn to developed countries for better living conditions.
As a result, target countries adopt stricter border and migration policies and increase border security. Refugees, who are not easy to enter the country from the border regularly, in this case resort to migrant smuggling and seek ways to reach the target country at the expense of their lives. Human life is precious. No human wants to be forced out of the society in which he was born, raised, and felt belonging. However, the current difficult conditions in the country can force people to migrate for better living conditions and a better future for themselves and their children.
It should be known that it will be inevitable for people who do not have the means to live in their own country, to have accommodation, to receive education and to participate in employment. In this respect, the issue of irregular forced migration should be evaluated in a more comprehensive and humanitarian perspective.
Research by Aylin Arslan