Syrian children exploited in sale of smuggled cigarettes in Turkey

From: Hurriyet Daily News

Sevil Erkuş

Syrian children, who have taken refuge in Turkey after fleeing their home country, are being exploited for the sale of bootlegged cigarettes in southeastern Turkey, a destination full of cigarettes smuggled in from Iraq, Iran and recently from Syria.

Walking around in the main square of the Kızıltepe district of Mardin, one
witnesses countless peddlers, mostly Syrian children who are not fluent in Turkish but communicate with locals in Arabic. When we tried to communicate with the children, some other children approached and told us they were not able to speak Turkish.

One Syrian man selling bootlegged cigarettes said his wife was Turkish, adding that they had been forced to flee Turkey from the Ras al-Ayn town in northern Syria due to the civil war.

Shop owners drew attention to the increasing numbers of Syrians that are used by smuggled cigarette networks in the region and say most of them are employed for 20 Turkish Liras daily. Before the turmoil in Syria, Turkish children were used as street peddlers, a shop owner says, admitting most of the retailers in the region also had to sell bootlegged cigarettes.

According to a study conducted by Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority (TAPDK), every one of two cigarettes smoked in southeastern Turkey is smuggled; the ratio reaches 62 percent in Diyarbakır, and 55 percent in Mardin.

Peddlers who sell smuggled cigarettes also sell single cigarettes for 25 kuruş each, so children can easily be marketed to as well.

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