Following notifications received through the SELEC channel and several operational meetings supported by SELEC, on 29 September 2016, the Turkish National Police initiated an investigation codenamed KABATAŞ against an organized criminal group, based in Istanbul, dealing with migrants’ smuggling.
This transnational organized criminal group consisted in smaller entities, with various modus operandi, migrants being smuggled either across land borders or by plane, while bribing airport officers, and using forged travel documents or a facilitator. Partners from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Republic of Serbia and Republic of Slovenia, linked to this organized criminal group, supported the illegal border crossing of Turkish nationals along the Western Balkans countries, taking advantage of the free visa regime applicable in these countries, in order to reach Western Europe.
168 migrants and 11 persons suspected for “producing or arranging forged documents” and for “migrant smuggling” were apprehended during the 32 actions that took place at national and international level. Turkish authorities cooperated in this investigation with the police departments of Republic of Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Federal Republic of Germany, Italian Republic, Hungary, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Romania, Republic of Serbia and Republic of Slovenia. Most of the detained Turkish migrants were wanted, as being involved in various factions of idiosyncratic terrorist organizations.
On 24 December 2016 at 6.00 a.m. a simultaneous operation was conducted in three Turkish towns and led to the arrest of 35 persons involved in the smuggling of migrants. Following house searches, several firearms, close to 100 passports and materials used for producing fraudulent documents were seized.
Currently, 12 fugitive suspects are being searched in the Republic of Turkey and investigations for dismantling the transnational links of the criminal migrants ‘smuggling organization are still ongoing in the other involved countries.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.