In a damning report, the United Nations concluded that Turkey has increasingly become a hub for cocaine trafficking for Europe and the Middle East under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government was accused by the Turkish opposition of providing protection for mafia groups and organized crime syndicates that traffic drugs through Turkey.
“Türkiye has been increasingly used as a transit country for cocaine in recent years. Since 2014, the amount of the drug seized in the country has increased sevenfold from 393 kg to a record 2.8 tons in 2021. Some of the cocaine reaching Türkiye arrives after transiting through West Africa, and some comes directly from Latin America,” said the report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on April 6, 2023.
“The use of South-Eastern Europe for cocaine trafficking is likely to continue to increase as the region is another entry point for cocaine destined primarily for European markets,” the report highlighted, pointing to Turkey as the crossing point by air and sea for such trafficking. “The points of departure for cocaine trafficked to Türkiye remain in South America.”
The report said some of the cocaine reaching Turkey arrives after transiting West Africa and some comes directly from Latin America, with the outbound cocaine flowing westward from Turkey through the Black Sea and the Balkans, a route traditionally associated with the trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of cigarettes.
According to the UN, the growing supply of cocaine transiting Turkey adds another stream through the Balkans, and it was predicted the Balkan route is likely to continue growing in importance, with Balkan criminal actors more active in the European cocaine market than ever.