The Turkish Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the mayor and deputy mayor of the Yalakent Municipality of the northern province of Samsun, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), after it has come out to light that the municipality was among others that have been involved in a human smuggling scheme.
Out of the 68 people that the AKP municipality sent abroad in 2019 with service passports, only five have returned back to Turkey.
Earlier this year, mounting evidence has shown that some municipalities have smuggled people abroad on service (gray) passports obtained through illegitimate means.
The Interior Ministry launched investigations into the relevant municipality executives, two of whom are Yalakent Mayor Hüseyin Kıyma and his deputy Hüseyin Yiğit. Documents have shown that Kıyma and Yiğit had authorized the travel permits, and now the two officials face charges of neglecting their duties and paving the way for human smuggling.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Samsun lawmaker Neslihan Hancıoğlu said that the lack of inspection of state mechanisms led to the scheme.
“Who has been given the state passports, based on which criteria? It is not known; on top of that, there is no explanation! The passports are issued upon the demand of the Yalakent district, but some of them [citizens] have left [the country] from Edirne, some from Bodrum,” Hancıoğlu said.
The lawmaker said that the incident is one of the many that proves the country can no longer be governed by the ruling AKP. “When we say 'Turkey is no longer being managed,' this is what we exactly mean. The state's institutions, rules have been destroyed,” she said, emphasizing that the state institutions have become a vehicle for favoring loyalists regardless of their merit.
After the human smuggling scheme became publicly known in April of this year, the Interior Ministry announced that it suspended issuing special state passports to those who are not public servants.
It is not yet known how many people in total have benefitted from the scheme.