The rugged mountains of Mergasor allow smugglers and human traffickers many paths into Turkey. Photo Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — At least 100 policemen were fired by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the charge of human trafficking from the Kurdistan Region’s northern Mergasor district to Turkey.
The policemen were dismissed based on a decision from the KRG Interior Ministry after it was determined they were paid to have illegally trafficked Syrian Arab refugees from the border town in Erbil to Shamzinan area in southeastern Turkey.
"They will be punished based on Article 45 stipulating that they misused their work against the interests of the public and trafficked humans. Thus, the interior ministry decided to fire them following the establishment of a committee to follow up on the matter," Saadun Hawdiyani, the spokesperson for the Soran Police Department, said on Wednesday.
Hawdiyani added the policemen had used their own identification cards to permit the refugees to cross to Turkey.
Aram Ibrahim was one of the fired police officers.
"I have been doing this job since 2015 and nobody warned me that it was illegal,” he said.
He claimed to have given up human trafficking in 2017 after a warning, but at the time nobody threatened to fire them.
He complained: "But just now they have ordered to fire me."
The dismissed police all confessed to their involvement.
Officer Sadiq Mohammed also was fired and recalls his involvement.
"I used to drive a taxi after work. One day, I brought a woman and two teens into Warte town and wanted to take them to Soran. At the Warte checkpoint Asayesh (Kurdish Security) stopped us on grounds that they were from Syria," he recalled.
The rugged mountainous areas of Mergasor have become a smuggling road through which people from the Kurdistan Region cross into Turkey.
Earlier this year, nine people also trying to illegally cross to Turkey died of cold and exposure on the Kurdistan Region’s side of the border.
The KRG, international organizations, and consulates have previously cautioned against migrants or asylum seekers using dangerous smuggling routes.
The UN's refugee agency recently tweeted all migrants should be respected, regardless of status.