As many as 22 “migrant smugglers” have been held in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, a security source said on Sunday.

Turkish security forces initiated an operation to bust a criminal gang involved in “international migrant smuggling” and “forgery of official documents,” said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Police officers raided at least 10 addresses in Fatih district of the city, and rounded up 22 suspects.

While 12 of them were remanded in custody, seven were released on the condition of judicial control. Two were released on condition of trial without arrest.

At least five inflatable boats, 14 life jackets, documents, cash and nine vehicles thought to be used for smuggling were also seized.

Meanwhile, at least 157 undocumented migrants from several countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, were also caught in the operation.

Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

*Writing by Havva Kara Aydin

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.