Smugglers take Kurdish migrants as hostages to extort families

Six Kurdish migrants, aged 17-20, were taken hostage in Istanbul, tortured and forced to feature in videos claiming they have arrived in France, according to the Iraqi Federation of Refugees.

Roj Kareem, a representative from the organisation said smugglers had agreed to take the migrants to France. When the plan fell through, smugglers forced the migrants to make videos about their arrival instead. The videos were then used to extort more money from their families back home.

“The smugglers – two of them were Kurdish from Erbil and the others Turkish – held those migrants in an apartment for four days, beat, threatened and tortured them with no food, forcing them to make video clips in which they assure their families that they are in Lyon, France, as their families agreed with smugglers previously,” said Roj.

In one of the video clips, made by migrants with their mobile phones and sent to their families by smugglers, they pretended to be in Lyon. “Thanks to God, thanks to Ahmed and Rebwar (the two Kurdish smugglers) for taking us to France. We are safe as you can see, we don’t have any problems. Don’t worry about us,” one of the boys said.

The smugglers attempted to use the videos to extort more money from the migrants’ families.

“We later understood that the video was fake and they had deceived us. They claimed to be in France under pressure and threats and once they sent the video, the smugglers demanded money from us,” Ibrahim Maulood, the father of one of the young hostages, told Rudaw News Agency.

After four days of being held by smugglers, one of the boys threw himself out of the apartment window to get help. When police arrived on the scene, the incident was reported and the rest of the hostages were released. The smugglers escaped, taking the hostages’ passports with them.

“Two of the six migrants are from Sulaymaniyah city and the rest are from Ranya city. One of them is still in hospital, and others are staying in other apartments waiting for their new passports from the Iraqi consulate in Istanbul,” Roj said.

The migrants are expected to return to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq in the coming days.

TMP – 17/09/2018

Photo caption:  Istanbul, Police car blocking the road.