Alliance Against Human Trafficking: UK Partners with Turkey to Tackle People-Smuggling Syndicates


The United Kingdom and Turkey have recently reached a groundbreaking agreement aimed at dismantling people-smuggling networks and addressing the issue of illegal migration. This partnership entails the establishment of a center of excellence in Turkey, which will serve as a platform to enhance collaboration and intelligence-sharing among various enforcement agencies.

One of the key objectives of this collaboration is to disrupt the illicit supply chain of small boat components across Europe. By targeting the source of these materials, the government aims to impede the operations of people-smuggling gangs and curb their ability to facilitate illegal migration.

The New Agreement Between UK and Turkey Is A Significant Step In Fight Against People Smuggling 

However, it is important to note that this agreement does not encompass the repatriation of unsuccessful Turkish asylum seekers. While the focus of this partnership lies primarily on intelligence-sharing and collaboration, it does not extend to addressing the issue of returning individuals whose asylum claims have been rejected.

During his visit to Turkey last month, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick expressed his support for this partnership. Although he did not disclose the exact amount of funding allocated to this initiative, he emphasized that the primary focus was not financial, but rather centered around the exchange of vital information.

This new agreement between the UK and Turkey marks a significant step forward in the fight against people-smuggling and illegal migration. By strengthening cooperation and intelligence-sharing, both countries are working together to disrupt criminal networks and safeguard their borders.

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UK Governement Announed An Establishment Of New Center 

The government has announced the establishment of a new center of excellence by the Turkish National Police. This center aims to enhance intelligence sharing between the two countries, enabling staff to respond more swiftly to information.

In addition, more officers will be deployed to Turkey to foster collaboration between the National Crime Agency, Home Office staff, and their Turkish counterparts.

To expedite the exchange of customs data and intelligence, a memorandum of understanding will be implemented.

The Home Office has emphasized the significance of small boat exports and parts in facilitating illegal crossings across Europe. It is estimated that hundreds of parts are transported annually for this purpose.

Turkish Nationals Have Crossed English Channel In Small Boats 

Turkey boasts the largest and busiest border crossing point in Europe, known as the Turkish-Bulgarian check point at Kapikule. By establishing this center of excellence, the Turkish National Police and relevant authorities aim to strengthen cooperation, combat smuggling tactics, and ensure the security of both nations.


According to Home Office figures, 1,486 Turkish nationals have crossed the Channel to the UK by small boat in the first seven months of this year, making them the second most common nationality to do so after Afghans.

Turkish arrivals have been steadily increasing since last year, partly due to a devastating earthquake in February that left approximately 1.5 million people homeless. Additionally, Turkey is currently grappling with a worsening economic crisis, with inflation stubbornly hovering just below 50%.

In 2022, the UK returned 191 Turkish nationals, while 1,076 arrived by small boats during that year. It is worth noting that the two countries do not have a formal returns agreement in place. 

Effective Collaboration Between UK and Turkey To Address The Issue 

Overall, the increasing number of Turkish nationals crossing the Channel to the UK, coupled with the challenges faced by Turkey, highlights the need for effective collaboration and efficient procedures to address this issue.


There is a sense of optimism within government circles that a returns deal with Turkey may be on the horizon, especially with the upcoming UK-Turkey Migration Dialogue meeting scheduled for the autumn in London.

The European Union currently has an agreement with Turkey to return migrants who illegally cross into the bloc from the country. However, since Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the returns agreements between EU countries and 24 other nations.

Mr. Jenrick expressed that while the UK is eager to collaborate with the EU, the returns arrangements did not function effectively when the UK was part of the bloc. Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party’s shadow home secretary, called for a comprehensive new agreement with the EU, France, and other neighboring countries, as well as stronger security cooperation with Europe.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.