Migrants on way to Europe overcharged to reach border

Migrants on way to Europe overcharged to reach border

Ece Çelik, Seda Türkoğlu - ISTANBUL/EDIRNE
Migrants on way to Europe overcharged to reach border

Migrants walk towards the Greek border in Pazarkule, in the Edirne district, on March 1, 2020. (AFP Photo)

As the floodgates to Europe have loosened, irregular migrants from across the country have come to Istanbul, transiting it as their first stop to reach the border province of Edirne, in hopes of eventually making it to Europe.

But opportunists are taking advantage of the migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, as minibus, bus and taxi drivers and owners are taking them to Edirne for exorbitant prices. 

The first place these migrants, who want to go to Edirne, drop by in Istanbul is the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management on Vatan Avenue, which has recently been more crowded than ever. Buses, minibuses, taxis and even private vehicles are in a rush to lure migrants who they see as customers. Migrants have to choose a means of transportation based on how much money they have in their pockets.  

The migrants who choose whatever they can afford have complained about the situation. Because the prices for minibuses and buses vary between 100 Turkish Liras ($16) and 200 liras ($32) per person. The bus fare would normally be around 75 liras ($12), but seats and tickets have already been running out. 

$4,000 for 250-kilometer journey

The drivers of vehicles parked on the sides of the avenue shout “Europe, Europe” and seek customers. 

A taxi driver says he charged a family travelling to Edirne $4,000 on the first night, while another taxi driver slams him for demanding such astronomical prices.

“I take them for 1,500 liras ($240), because we will be going 250 kilometers after all,” the taxi driver says when asked about his own tariff.

Ahmet Şinasi, who is waiting for a passenger with his van, is both satisfied and irritated about the situation.“There are those who want to bargain, but it is not possible.

They cannot go by regular bus — there is no seat. They have to get out of here. But I want these people to go and not come back to our country again. That’s why I’m taking them,” said Şinasi, who has gone back and forth between Edirne and Istanbul 15 times since the morning of Feb. 29.

The migrants are in a desperate wait. The 25-year-old Syrian Abdulsalam says that Turkey, where he has been living for three years, is now very expensive. Stating that he wants to go to Europe for a better life, Abdulsalam has also complained about waiting long for a bus to take him to the border. 

“We have been waiting in the park for six hours. Bus prices are very high. We want to negotiate, but nobody agrees to take us for cheaper.”

Migrants spend all they have to cross into Europe

The Meriç Bridge in the northwestern province of Edirne is filled with refugee groups moving to the Greek border.

After crossing the bridge, we encounter Haydar, who has walking disabilities.

Haydar says he has been on the road for two days. His Syrian and Afghan friends push his wheelchair.

The biggest complaint of many refugees with whom we spoke is that “opportunists” try to take advantage of them. The “refugee tariff” is so cruel that we get our share of it.

A private car driver, who we ask to take us to where the refugees are going, says he can take us to these places for 100 liras ($12).