How we are planning to respond to the Türkiye / Syria earthquake

On Monday 6 February, a series of earthquakes devasted areas of Southern Turkey and Northern Syria. At the time of writing, 22,000 have lost their lives and that number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.

The current priority for rescue organisations is to preserve life and ensure that those who have been affected by the crisis have access to water, shelter, fuel and food.

Alongside the urgent threat to human life there is a very real risk that survivors of the disaster may be targeted by traffickers. While our intelligence gathering investigations will tell us more about what this could look like, what we know from past crises of this scale is that trafficking manifests itself in the weeks, months and years that follow.

Our immediate focus at STOP THE TRAFFIK Group is to support our partners in the region, some of which we have been working with since 2020, as part of our prevention programmes in Türkiye and Greece.

As part of this, we recently ran a wide scale campaign across Istanbul, sharing safety information with refugees and asylum seekers about how to spot the signs of exploitation.

During this time, we developed a trusted network of partner organisations on the ground in Turkey and are in constant contact with them in order to establish a clear picture of what is happening.

Work we conducted around the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 and the Nepal Earthquake in 2015 demonstrated significantly increased reports of trafficking. Combined with this, our ongoing crisis response in Ukraine has shown us that preventing potentially exploitative situations in the wake of natural disasters and conflict must complement the rescue effort itself.

We are now putting what we have learned into practice to respond to the urgent and increasingly complex nature of this crisis. Natural disasters cause devastation on an almost incomprehensible scale and opportunists will almost certainly seek to take advantage of the desperation they create.

Our intelligence gathering and prevention programmes help us stay one step ahead of the traffickers. This gives us an accurate picture of what is happening and enables us to provide support information to vulnerable communities. Our goal is to measure what did not happen, as a result of our efforts.

Our immediate priorities in Türkiye and Syria are to:

  • gather intelligence on the likely movement patterns of displaced and vulnerable people, reducing the opportunities for traffickers to target them along these routes as they seek safety
  • working to build an active engaged network of diverse partners in order to share information both with us, with each other and, importantly, to vulnerable communities
  • apply our experience of working in the region since 2020 to create a robust response plan
  • degrade the trafficking routes and vulnerable hotspots that emerge

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