Süd-West-Punkt / Ravensburger Spectrum / DW.com
"There has been people smuggling since the first borders were drawn. As long as there are borders, this business will continue," says Baver - a 32-year-old smuggler who works on the Turkish-Iranian border.
Baver's position in the organization is very important according to his own statements: it is his responsibility to bring the refugees to the "safe zone", the eastern Anatolian city of Van. "I've already brought thousands across the border," he says, not entirely without pride. He doesn't want to tell us exactly where he is smuggling refugees across the Iranian-Turkish border. Uncovering his routes could lead to the collapse of the entire smuggling organization, he warns. This includes a wide network of smugglers operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and even Europe.
Baver's sentences sound nervous and hasty: "I have to be careful not to have the police on my cheek." In Turkish cities on the Iranian border, the police are increasingly focusing on the illegal smuggling of migrants. Even before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, the police carried out more operations there. Numerous legal proceedings have been initiated and legal proceedings have been opened against 920 traffickers since the beginning of the year. "I don't want to join that," said Baver.
The people smuggler calls the migrants he smuggles his "guests". A codified jargon is supposed to make it more difficult for the police to trace the communication between the smugglers. In addition, they would make sure to use communication services such as WhatsApp or Telegram. Programs that are difficult for the police to monitor.
Afghanistan is a country that has been the starting point for refugee movements for many years and is therefore a place where people smuggling flourishes. The transfer fee for a migrant who wants to go to Istanbul from Afghanistan is $ 1500. Prices have risen as a result of the Taliban's victory - mainly because the Turkish border is now better secured.
Map infographic Iran with Sistan and Balochistan DE
Afghan refugees have to go through several stations on their odyssey
The Afghan refugees who depend on Baver's help in the Turkish border area have already come a long way. Baver explains that the smuggling organizations consist of thousands of people who work together across national borders: In every country - in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey - there are so-called guarantors. These intermediaries receive the entire amount that a refugee has to pay and transfer their share to the respective smugglers via "hawala" after each stage has been completed. Hawala, a worldwide informal money transfer system, is used for transfers outside of traditional banking channels.
First stage: as soon as 30 or 40 people have gathered, they are brought from Kabul to the border with the Pakistani province of Balochistan. The route across the Afghan-Iranian border is avoided because this route is very dangerous.
Baloch smugglers take over at the border. After arriving in Pakistan, the next step begins: the long and arduous journey to the Iranian border. It is a long distance, for which three or four different tugs are usually responsible. Then the refugees are left behind at a "zero point", an agreed location on the Iranian border.
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After the refugees have crossed the Iranian border, a vehicle collects them at various meeting points in the Iranian-Pakistani border area and takes them to Tehran in a ten-hour drive. They are then temporarily transported by bus to the western Iranian cities of Maku and Khoy - both cities in turn have their own smugglers. From there they are driven to Iranian border villages - the smugglers are known for their excellent relationships with the Iranian border police.
"We help people who are in mortal danger"
The last step: in groups of 40 or 50 people, the Afghans are finally guided into Turkish territory via one of the five secret refugee routes. The hikes begin at nightfall - the group usually has arrived by sunrise. You arrive in the Turkish towns of Doğubayazıt, Çaldıran, Özalp and Saray.
Baver cannot understand why his profession is criminalized. It is convinced that he does no harm. He thinks that smugglers - on the contrary - help people who are in mortal danger.