ISTANBUL: Turkish police rescued 57 Pakistani migrants, who were chained up in an Istanbul basement by people smugglers trying to extort money, reported local media on Tuesday.
According to daily Hurriyet, the smugglers told the migrants that they would take them to Europe for $10,000 with the money to be paid after they arrived.
Some of the migrants found on Monday had been tortured, the newspaper added.
Police also detained three smugglers of Pakistani-origin on suspicion of misleading the migrants during the raid on the European side of the city. The migrants had reportedly hoped to reach Europe via Greece or Italy, giving a code to the smugglers to access the money upon reaching Europe, said the newspaper.
However, the people smuggling gang — mainly made up of Pakistanis — demanded the $10,000 upfront and told the migrants chained in Istanbul to call their families to tell them that they had reached Europe already, asking of them to transfer the money, the daily added.
In a related development, about 60 migrants including children were rescued from a boat in the Black Sea overnight, Romanian border police said on Tuesday.
The boat from Turkey was spotted 35 kilometres off the Romanian coast in rough seas and was towed by the coast guard to the port of Constanta.
“Among the migrants there are children, but we are still counting,” coast guard patrol spokeswoman Ionela Pasat said. The Black Sea emerged as an alternative route to western Europe over the summer, with the arrival in Romania of more than 570 Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis in less than a month.
Experts warn the crossing is far more dangerous than the Mediterranean Sea because of fierce thunderstorms.
In September, 21 people were confirmed drowned and up to 15 more were missing after a fishing boat carrying migrants sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast. A further 40 were rescued.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2017