Migrant smuggling and human trafficking crimes are implemented in article 79 of the Turkish Penal Code. According to the Turkish Criminal Code, migrant trafficking is defined as illegally transporting a foreign person into or out of the country or keeping them in the country for direct or indirect financial gain. As can be seen from the definition, migrant trafficking can be committed in one of two ways. First is by illegally transporting a foreign person into the country, and the second is keeping such an individual in the country. Therefore, the word ‘migration’ in the definition does not include legal migration status.
The most important component of migrant trafficking is material gain procured by the commitment of the crime. If there is no such material gain, aiding and abetting someone being transported into or out of the country will not constitute the crime. In a similar case, the Supreme Court made a verdict in 2014:“In the case at hand, the accused tried to transport his brother in law V and the brother of his friend M out of the country in his car and got caught at the border checkpoint in İpsala. There is not sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the said accused perpetrated this act with the purpose of material gain. Therefore, he will be acquitted of the said crime and the assigned court will be notified accordingly.
Penalty for Migrant Smuggling
Regardless of how migrant smuggling is committed, it is punishable by a prison sentence from 3 years up to 8 years and a fine of up to 10,000 days. Even if migrant trafficking is not fully committed and is only attempted, the perpetrator will be punished to the full extent of the law. In case the victims of the crime who were illegally transported into or out of a country and forced to stay in a country where they may be in danger or subjected to humiliating treatment, the punishment will be increased by twofold or two-thirds of the punishment. Also, if migrant trafficking is committed as part of organized crime, the punishment will be doubled. As can be seen, if the migrant trafficking crime is proven, the court will issue a sentence of minimum 3 years in prison. In that case, the punishment will not be postponed, turned into fines or the announcement of the verdict will not be postponed. So, these perpetrators have to consult a professional specializing in this area, which constitutes a very serious crime.
According to Act 70 of the Turkish Penal Code, human trafficking involves forced labor, indentured servitude, prostitution, slavery, or intimidation, extortion, violence or threats in order to harvest organs, or abuse and misuse trust, influence or take advantage of and deceive people by way of preying upon their weaknesses or despair to smuggle people into or outside the country, kidnapping, transferring or harboring them. Although the crime resembles migrant trafficking in its definition, there is an important difference between them.
Penalty for Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is punishable by an 8 to 12-year prison sentence, and a fine calculated by 10,000 days. As one might notice, human trafficking is a more serious crime than migrant smuggling; and its punishment is more severe. Even if the victim consents to the commitment of the crime, it still constitutes a crime in the eye of the law. Besides, if the victim is a minor, the perpetrator will be punished, just like in the crime of migrant trafficking, even if there has been no coercion, violence or deceit.
Attorney İlker Atamer