Erdoğan awards mayors of municipalities that organized human smuggling to Europe

Erdoğan has given awards to two AKP mayors whose municipalities hit the Turkish media earlier this year for providing citizens with service passports to smuggle them to Europe.

Erdoğan gives Yurtbaşı Mayor Mehmet Çınar his award during a ceremony on Nov 16.

Ardıl Batmaz / DUVAR

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has granted awards to some of the mayors of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over their efforts what he said to increase investments in their city for the "youth improvement."

The awards were distributed during the AKP Local Administrations' Youth Festival in the Turkish capital Ankara on Nov. 16.

Among the mayors who received the awards was Sabahattin Kaya, the mayor of Akçakiraz Municipality in the eastern province of Elazığ, as well as Mehmet Çınar, the mayor of the Yurtbaşı Municipality in the eastern province of Malatya – both of whom have been investigated as their municipalities were found to be functioning as a bridge to smuggle people to Europe with special state passports.

The AKP announced that the mayors received their awards for the “social, cultural and sportive investments that they undertook" for youth projects. 

Mayor Kaya had previously confirmed that his municipality had sent 20 people to Germany's Bremen city, out of whom only three people returned back to Turkey. He had defended themselves by saying that the people sent to Germany were “a burden” to Turkey.

“People are unemployed. We thought that they would go away from here and get a job there. It also sounded reasonable to me. People who will be a burden to the Turkish Republic are going away from here. They are sending then euros, gold and dollars,” he had said in an interview to journalist İsmail Saymaz.

He had also admitted that in exchange for sending the people, his municipality purchased a truck worth 100,000 liras.

Earlier this year, it was also revealed that the Yeşilyurt Municipality had sent 45 people to Germany for an environmental program, out of whom only two returned back to Turkey. After the issue was raised by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Veli Ağbaba, AKP Mayor Çınar had said: “Why did he take this issue to Turkey's agenda? Isn't Malatya also his hometown?”

The scandal of human smuggling initially emerged in April with the reports on the Yeşilyurt Municipality, but later expanded to cover many other municipalities which were discovered to arrange special passports.

The Interior Ministry later announced that it suspended issuing the special state passports to those who are not public servants and that it launched an investigation into the relevant municipalities.