Migrants smuggled across Iran-Turkey border face perilous journey – report

Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and war in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan cross the mountainous 540-kilometre border separating Turkey and Iran. Although this journey is fraught with danger, the migrants risk it anyway in hopes of a better future in Turkey and eventually Europe, Britain's Independent newspaper reported in a photo story on Friday.

"With no prospects of a decent future at home, they are forced to leap into the unknown and gamble on their quest for a dream that for many turns out to be a nightmare," the report said.

One of the migrants who undertook a 28-day trek to the Iran-Turkey border is Ahmed, an Afghan who left his country with six of his friends. He is a Turkmen who hopes that he can reach Ankara and find work to send money back home to his family.

"Irregular migrants, who are in some cases unrecognised refugees, risk their lives in the hope of finding a job in the Turkish cities and eventually mainland Europe," the Independent said.

Over the past decade, Turkey has become one of the most important countries for migrants trying to reach Europe, the Independent said. 

Although from different countries, most of the migrants leave for similar reasons. Afghans and Pakistanis are primarily fleeing the violence in their countries, while Iranians are seeking better economic opportunities abroad. Many of these vulnerable migrants become victims of human trafficking.

In the eastern city of Van near Turkey's border with Iran, human trafficking is rampant. Migrants pay traffickers between £440-740 ($600-1,000) to get into Turkey.

They have to walk through the mountains for days to get across the border, guided via telephone by their smugglers. Once over, they are kept in safe houses in Van. The traffickers have also used boats across Lake Van to smuggle in the migrants. In June 2020, about 100 people died when a boat sank in that lake. Their bodies still haven't been found over a year later.

"They are not the only ones to never be found again by their relatives," the Independent said. "In the cemetery of the 'unidentified' in Van, hundreds of gravestones are marked with country names and numbers. These are the only traces of the lives of those buried beneath."

Those who survive that part of the trip are taken to the southeastern Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, where they wait for days for a bus and depend upon "the charity and goodwill of the locals" to survive.

"Most of them will have to make it on their own beyond this point – once they realise they have been abandoned by smugglers who have stopped picking up their phones," the report concluded.

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