Economic network

Istanbul illegal organ transplant network dismantled

ISTANBUL: Shrouded in acrid smoke, a young Afghan crouched down to sort through the trash he took out of Istanbul’s trash cans, worried that Turkey would soon deprive him of even that livelihood.
“I start at eight in the morning and finish at eight in the evening,” said Issam Raffur, who spent four of his 20 years in Turkey.
“It’s very hard and poorly paid, but I have no choice,” he shrugged, smoke rising from a fire barely warming his makeshift sorting center by a wet winter day.
Considered the poorest of the poor in Turkey, Afghans have joined Kurds, Laz, Roma and other ethnic minorities and undocumented migrants in doing work that others shy away from.
For less than $ 10 a day, they roam the streets of Istanbul, a megalopolis of nearly 16 million people under the weight of a currency crisis and a flood of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other states in conflict.
Diving head first into dumpsters, they dig up plastic bottles, glass and other trash which they sort and then sell in bulk – a self-organized, unregulated business that keeps the city clean and healthy. men like Issam fed.
But as public opinion turns against migrants and other foreigners in Turkey, the state-appointed Istanbul Prefecture has said the work is bad for “the environment and public health.”
Issam and his friends suspect that what Turkish officials really want is to bring this potentially profitable business under the control of a few well-connected recycling companies.
“If the big companies take over, they will remove our last support branch,” said Mahmut Aytar, a Turk who runs one of the small recycling centers on the Asian side of Istanbul. “They will throw us into the ravine.
Speaking to AFP, Deputy Environment Minister Mehmet Emin Birpinar has done little to allay Aytar’s concerns.
“Waste can be bought and sold, so we started to think of it as a raw material with other uses,” he said. “After the increase in the price of raw materials, the value of recycled products increased. “
Born in multi-ethnic Turkey’s southeast, Aytar, 28, started his recycling business out of desperation after failing to find work worthy of his biology degree.
“This job does not require any experience or training. Anyone can do it, but it is above all the people excluded by the system who get involved, ”he said, watching his presses crush plastic bags and empty bottles.
After being reduced to tidy bales, plastic waste is loaded into trucks of small independent recycling operators who transform it into pellets.
Aytar said he runs one of some 2,500 impromptu recycling depots in Istanbul, receiving dozens of waste pickers – called “cekcekci” and roughly translating to those pulling carts – every day.
Pulling muddy white carts filled with paper, cardboard, plastic, and bottles, they weave their way between car horns and pedestrian streams, earning 80 to 120 lire ($ 6 to $ 9) a day.
Women and miners specialize in cartons they find after shops close at night, with their babies sometimes circulating in the lower folds of the carts.
Each kilogram of trash is worth about a pound (7 cents US), and the bravest pick up about 150 kilograms of trash per day. “They probably don’t realize it, but by being impoverished they help protect the environment,” Aytar said. “They help society.
They do so while living in poverty and depending on the whims of the police.
At the beginning of October, the security forces gathered more than 250 cekcekci in one day, freeing them after a few hours but keeping their precious cargoes of waste.
“It’s harassment,” said Elrem Yasar, who started running his own depot after picking up trash for 12 years.
“Each confiscation costs me around 560 lire, which I earn in three days.”
Istanbul prefecture officials defended their crackdown.
“These cekcekci are working illegally,” an official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “It is up to the city to take care of recycling and collect the revenues from it.