Syrian migrants not here to stay, using İzmir as transition point to Greece

Syrian migrants not here to stay, using İzmir as transition point to Greece

Banu Şen – İZMİR
Syrian migrants not here to stay, using İzmir as transition point to Greece

AA photo

The Aegean province of İzmir is one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations, but it is now attracting a new kind of foreign visitor: Syrian migrants who have begun massing in the area before attempting to make a break for Greece across the water.

The Basmane neighborhood of İzmir has become a hotspot for Syrian migrants, with many hotels running at such full capacity that they have begun constructing extra rooms to meet the demand. Many of those that cannot find room have opted to sleep in any shady place they find on the streets. 

Almost all of the Syrian refugees that have recently come to İzmir said they ran away from being recruited to the army as they did not wish to fight in the country’s civil war. 

“We are running from the army. Men aged between 18 and 35 are being recruited to the army. We do not want to fight, that is why we are running. Our families are in safe cities. The ones who are married take their families with them,” one young Syrian migrant told daily Hürriyet on the streets of Basmane. “We do not aim to stay in Turkey; we came here to go to Greece.” 

A group of five Syrian young men, who said that they had been sleeping near a wall in İzmir for the past week, said they were all university graduates and had professions but had fled Syria to avoid the draft. 
“We were working in Damascus, but we have not been able to see our family for two years. We fled to avoid being taken into the army. Money talks in Syria. If you give 300 dollars you get a passport,” one of the five said.

Some are hesitant to speak, however, due to worries about possible informants from the government or members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) among them. 

“We were caught twice by Greek soldiers when we tried to escape from Çeşme [a district of İzmir]. They confiscated all that we had and left us on the Turkish side, but we will try until we make it. If we cannot go in a months’ time Turkey will deport us, which will mean delivering us into the hands of the [Syrian] army,” the group said. “That is why we do not fear a risky journey at sea; we have no other choice.” 

A man who identified himself by the name Imed said he and his family, a wife and three children, did not have enough money to cross over to a Greek island. 

“We do not have money to go to a Greek island. We only have 500 Turkish Liras. We left everything behind and ran away. I will save some money by being a barber here. Then maybe we will be able to go to Europe via Greece,” Imed said. 

Meanwhile, the İzmir Governor’s Office announced Aug. 2 that a total of 2,727 migrants had been caught from July 28 to July 31, in 57 separate rescue operations on the Aegean Sea while illegally trying to cross to Greece. 

Additionally, 50 Syrian migrants, who were trying to cross the Aegean Sea to reach Greece, were saved by Turkish Coast Guards as their boats were sinking off of Bodrum’s coasts early on Aug. 2. 

Following a tip from a yacht, Coast Guards saved 50 Syrian migrants, including 12 children and 10 women, while the two boats had started to sink due to weight. 

Yusufi Jehad, 40, who was among the 50 migrants to have been saved from drowning, said they had bought three boats in İzmir and had come to Bodrum by bus, only for the entire party to board the two boats after they realized the third was deficient, Doğan News Agency reported. 

On the first weekend of August, 400 migrants were caught off of Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district on their way to Lesbos Island. 

Of the 400 migrants, 85 were Afghans and the rest Syrians, including a group of 30 Syrians, who mistakenly came ashore at Balıkesir’s Altınova and screamed “freedom” on the belief that they had reached Lesbos, before realizing that they were still in Turkey.