ISTANBUL – TDN with wire dispatches
The bodies of thirteen migrants, mainly from Pakistan and Myanmar, were found dump in Istanbul's Küçükçekmece district yesterday.
An additional 60 migrants were found in the same area and 13 have been sent to hospitals for treatment. Deploying helicopters, officials were searching for more migrants in the same vicinity, the Anatolia news agency reported.
�Today, we witnessed a bitter example of human trafficking,� said Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler.
Officials report that some 140 people were transported inside a container hauled by a truck from the southeastern province of Van to Istanbul, said Küçükçekmece Mayor Aziz Yeniay. Güler said, �As it became impossible for the migrants to go on, they began pounding inside the container. The driver stopped and found 13 people had died from lack of air in the container.� The driver, then, ran away after abandoning the migrants in an empty field.
�Unfortunately, there is a drama of humanity here,� said Yeniay. He said the migrants were abandoned at 4:30 a.m., however, they were not discovered by police until 7:30 a.m.
Commenting on the situation, Metin Çorabatır from the Turkey office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, said, �We have just learned of it from the media. It is too early to do something right now.� He explained that UNHCR's Turkey office usually seeks information from Turkish authorities under such circumstances, and checks asylum dossiers.
Human rights associations, on the other hand, said such incidents are predictable as Turkey is located next to countries suffering from devastating human and economic problems. �The borders should be more transparent and open to people. This is the only way to prevent such incidents,� said Gülseren Yoleri, head of the Human Rights Association's Istanbul office. Yoleri told the Turkish Daily News that not only this incident, but the fact that refugees agree to such dangerous and inhuman modes of transportation are, themselves, violations of human rights. About 14,138 undocumented foreigners were arrested in Turkey last year alone.
�Turkey does not accept refugees from countries other than Europe, though many migrants use Turkey as a transit state on their travel to European countries,� said Özlem Dalkıran, refugee advocacy and support program coordinator at the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, or HCA. She said there are more than 15,000 migrants whose files remain open in the UNHCR. �More and more people from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are running away from their countries,� said Dalkıran.