What do Syrians think of Greece?

Migration in Turkey : The flow of refugees on the Aegean coast is growing and growing

They camp in parks and spread their blankets in the shade of the trees. They sit on their bags and garment bags - and dream of Europe while they wait. Several thousand refugees have turned up in the past few days in Izmir in western Turkey and other regions on the Aegean coast to begin the illegal crossing to nearby Greece. Turkish authorities report an onslaught that overshadows everything that has gone before. According to refugee organizations, there is no improvement in sight.

Most of the refugees are Syrians. Some of them have already tried several times the crossing to the Greek island of Chios, which is only a few kilometers from the Turkish seaside resort of Cesme near Izmir. Further north, the Greek city of Lesbos is also seeing the arrival of many new refugees. In addition to Syrians, there are also Iraqis and Afghans among the refugees who want to seek their fortune in the EU.

In the first seven months of the year, the Coast Guard held 26,000 people

The Aegean has been an important transit point for refugees who want to travel to Europe via Turkey for years. But for some time now, the number of people has been swelling as never before. In 2013, the Turkish coast guard fished almost 7,000 boat refugees from the waters of the Aegean Sea, prevented them from crossing to Greece and thus saved the lives of many people on the completely unseaworthy boats. Last year, the number of refugees picked up almost doubled to almost 13,000. But that was nothing compared to the development this year: In the first seven months, the coast guard held almost 26,000 people.

Nobody knows how many manage to cross and how many are killed in the process. In any case, the refugees gathered in Izmir are not thinking of giving up. "At the first attempt we were caught by the Greek Navy and sent back," a refugee reported to the newspaper "Hürriyet". But that doesn't change his determination and that of his friends: "We'll try until it works." The illegal journey with the boats of the tugs therefore costs 1,100 US dollars per passenger.

Turkey, which has to care for almost two million Syrian civil war refugees, can hardly prevent the people from getting into one of the people-smugglers' inflatables in any bay. Turkish aid organizations say the authorities registered those refugees who were caught crossing the river and instructed them to return to their homeland within two months. Most people go into hiding and try again when they can find the money.

People smugglers now seem to be betting on smaller boats

In the profitable business with the refugees, the people smugglers change their tactics again and again. At the beginning of the year, the journeys of the so-called ghost ships made international headlines: discarded freighters leaving the southern Turkish port of Mersin for Europe. The crew often turns on the autopilot at some point during the journey and disembarks, hence the name. The smugglers now seem to be relying more on small boats in the Aegean.

In the middle of the summer season, the ideal world of vacationers is confronted with the despair of the refugees in the sea between Turkey and Greece. A Turkish tourist reported on the news channel CNN-Türk that she was able to see the boats with the refugees in the water from the ferry on a trip to a Greek Aegean island. In the holiday town of Bodrum, business people are now complaining about the large number of refugees on the streets.

It is not even the case that every Syrian refugee in Turkey strives for Europe straight away. "85 percent of people want to stay close to home so that they can return home quickly," says Piril Ercoban from the Mälteci-Der refugee organization in Izmir.

The living conditions for those seeking help are becoming more and more difficult

An end to the flow of refugees to the west is still not in sight, believes Ercoban. "It's not easy to solve," she told our newspaper. The ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan make many people doubt that their lives will ever get better. In addition, for most of them there is no legal access to Europe, so that only the illegal route remains, said Ercoban. The living conditions for the refugees in Turkey are also becoming more and more difficult because of the steadily increasing number of newcomers.

In Izmir and elsewhere, groups of refugees in the parks could therefore soon be part of the normal street scene. Every now and then the police come and chase people into the side streets, but they'll be back soon. Most of them only stay for a day or two, then they disappeared for Greece, Ercoban observed. But new ones are coming soon - and waiting for their boat.

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