Turkey breaks up smuggling ring that brought thousands of migrants to Europe

Migrants in a dinghy paddle their way on the Mediterranean Sea to attempt crossing to the Greek island of Kos, as a Turkish Coast Guard ship patrols off the shores off Bodrum, Turkey. (File/Reuters)
Updated 29 May 2019

Turkey breaks up smuggling ring that brought thousands of migrants to Europe

ISTANBUL: Turkish police said on Wednesday they had detained the leaders of what they called Europe’s biggest people-smuggling ring, which helped thousands of irregular immigrants reach Europe from the Middle East.
Twenty people, including ringleader Akbar Omar Tawfeeq, were detained in operations in four Turkish provinces after a year-long investigation into the organization, Istanbul police said.
The network mainly helped Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian nationals cross into European countries from Turkey by land and sea, police said, adding that the group had also worked with other smuggling groups in Ukraine, Italy and Greece.
As part of the operations, police detained 569 irregular immigrants and seized six vehicles and six boats, they said in a statement. The smuggling group, whose leaders are mainly from northern Iraq, earned an average 2 million euros annually.
Video footage released by police showed special operations police breaking down the door of the suspects’ residence and seizing phones, drugs and digital material.
More than a million migrants and refugees, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, arrived in the European Union in 2015. Turkey was one of the main launch points for the dangerous sea leg of their journey, on which thousands died.
Numbers declined sharply in the following year when Turkey, in exchange for 3 billion euros in European Union aid and a promise to ease visa restrictions for Turks, began to exert more control on migrants trying to cross to Europe via its territory.
Overall Mediterranean arrivals to the European Union, including migrants making the longer and more perilous crossing from north Africa to Italy, stood at 172,301 in 2017, down from 362,753 in 2016 and 1,015,078 in 2015, according to UN data.


Iran: Held US graduate student to be exchanged for scientist

Updated 5 min 22 sec ago

Iran: Held US graduate student to be exchanged for scientist

  • Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif makes announcement on Twitter on Saturday
  • Iran has detained dual nationals and those with Western ties in the past to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s foreign minister says a detained Princeton graduate student will be exchanged for an Iranian scientist held by the US.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday. The trade involves graduate student Xiyue Wang and scientist Massoud Soleimani. There was no immediate acknowledgment of the trade by the US lawyers involved in the cases could not be immediately reached.


Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad. His family and Princeton strongly denied the claims. Iran has detained dual nationals and those with Western ties in the past to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Soleimani — who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine — was arrested by US authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home.