Smugglers profit off refugees stuck with no good options

Although the media buzz around refugees has died down, having reached a fever pitch months ago, there are still many families suffering from the complications of a life stuck in between. On the Syrian-Turkish Border, because of security crackdowns, many families are unable. The Turkish security forces catch more than 200 individuals a day trying to cross the border into Turkey. These people include families who have lost all they had to smugglers, who are left stranded at the border unable to continue to Turkey or return home.

Numerous human rights organizations have documented the deaths of dozens of people trying to enter Turkey illegally. The last such case was of 11 Syrians killed by the Turkishgendarme at the border on July 18th. Besides the physical risks, getting smuggled into Turkey makes many Syrians ripe for exploitation and theft by smugglers.

Hassan is a young man from Damascus who decided to flee Syria to avoid being conscripted into the Syrian army after his name appeared on a list of individuals requested for reserve service. After contacting several different smugglers, he made his way for Turkey, 355 kilometers away from Damascus.

“I had made up my mind to leave Damascus and headed to the city of Hama. From there, I went to the liberated countryside with the help of a smuggler who I told I had $7,000 with me so that he’d know to avoid regime checkpoints, where my money might be stolen. After that, the agreement was to pay $2,000 to ensure that I could get into Turkey, crossing the border.”

Hassan continued: “While I was waiting for to start this part of the journey, I was attacked out of nowhere by two men with guns wearing masks. They took me to an empty area and beat me, breaking my hand. Two days later the smuggler showed up acting like he was going to be my savior and speed up the process of getting me towards a border village, where I saw a lot of other people who were beat up similar to me.”

Hassan’s story of abuse at the hands of smugglers is one of many. These stories continue to play out daily as people head to Turkey.

Abu Ahmad, a man from the village of Kharita in Deir ez-Zor told the Syrian Voice about his harrowing trip to the Turkish border with a group of relatives via smugglers. They were fleeing ISIS rule as well as severe poverty and unemployment. However, the smugglers they hired were “cruel and greedy,” he said.

He detailed his route saying “we got to the village of Badama in the countryside of Jisr al-Shughour in the Idlib countryside, near Turkey, after a journey of twenty days through Azaz, then Afrin, then finally Idlib.”

“There, the smugglers started behaving like middlemen, bartering for and with us like we were just numbers. Every smuggler started asking for sums of money just to move us short distanced once inside Turkey. One smuggler asked for 300 dollars for each person, including the children, which was a huge amount given the number of family members we had with us and our bad financial situation.”

Ultimately, Abu Ahmed had to make several attempts to cross into Turkey as they were caught by the Turkish border guard, which also meant they had to pay more.


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