Meeting Turkey's camera-shy people smugglers

Smugglers first use their Facebook page to establish contact with Syrians who wish to travel to Turkey.


    Smugglers are generally camera shy. The nature of their business means they usually try to actively avoid any adverse publicity. But when your business is people smuggling then clearly potential customers need to know how to get hold of you. A bit of advertising is necessary.

    So when we arrived in Mersin in Turkey, on the trail of the smugglers, they weren't hard to find. It was Facebook that provided the first connection. A page called Europe Travels advertises weekly trips in 82 metre long boats with food, water and mattresses provided. And there's a phone number. There didn't appear to be any attempt to hide what was going on. With around 350,000 Syrians living in Mersin there's an established customer base of people looking to start a new life in Europe.

    When we called the smuggler he was keen to explain the process from start to finish. It was a phone call our producer recorded.

    We thought we'd try and meet the smuggler to see if he'd do an interview on camera. So at a coffee shop in Mersin we met him. He was a tall Syrian man, perhaps in his late 20s. We told him we were journalists. He was reluctant to be filmed but said his friend would. Our smuggler would drive us to him. As we walked outside to our cars the smuggler started walking faster then broke into a sprint. Within seconds he'd jumped into his car and sped-off down the road before we'd had a chance to realise what he was doing. Perhaps he didn't have a friend to meet us after all! Still, at least we had the recording of the telephone interview with him.

    Our producer found out where migrants stay before they set sail and where they deposit their $5,300 fee. He used a secret camera to film in both places. It's nerve wracking but the only way to show viewers how the migrant smuggling operation works. It's also dangerous. This is a multi-million dollar business. Smugglers don't want nosey journalists disrupting their plans. At the office where passengers deposit their money our producer had a close call. The smuggler who ran away from us the day before came into the office and spotted our producer, who had to run out and into our waiting car. It was our turn to speed away.



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