IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Many IDPs in the Idlib countryside have no option but to use smugglers to enter Turkey, which they see as a refuge that can save their families from daily non-stop military confrontations and instability, in addition to deteriorating living conditions.
However, many who are trying to enter the Turkish lands across the Syrian-Turkish border to north of Idlib face many difficulties and dangers, such as the exploitation of smugglers and being targeted with live ammunition by Turkish forces.
Dozens of people, including entire families, cross daily in search of work and a safe place, especially with the deteriorating living conditions in recent times, lack of work opportunities, and the absence of humanitarian organizations' support for the displaced in northern Idlib.
Ahmad Murad, a displaced person from Hama countryside and resident of the Qah camps to the north of Idlib, said that he sold his car to pay to smugglers to bring him and his family to Turkey in order to work and live in safety.
Murad said that “entering Turkey was not easy, as we tried to enter Turkish territory across the border to the northwest of Idlib with the help of one of the smugglers. But the so-called border guards affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front) prevented us because we didn’t have a permit, which costs $50 USD for each family member.”
“I did not have enough cash, because I had paid the smuggler $650 for each member of my family, which forced us to return to the camps,” Murad added.
Abu Hamed, a smuggler on the border north of Idlib, said that, “the border guards work with smugglers, and they charge $50 per person to enter illegally; they force the smuggler to return the money if the smuggling operation fails.”
"HTS has become responsible for holding smugglers accountable for their mishandling of people, and thus plays the role of an insurance company,” he added.
Abu Hamid said that he takes $700 per person for a normal smuggling, which relies on surreptitiously crossing the borders. As for the guaranteed smuggling, its price ranges between $1,800 and $2,000, after an agreement has been made with the alternating Turkish patrols to allow people to enter in return for a financial share obtained by the patrol."
Those fleeing the deteriorating security and living conditions in northern Idlib are subjected to gunfire and killing by the Turkish border guards while trying to enter the Turkey, in addition to the many cases of exploitation by the smugglers, especially after the control of the Syrian forces in the countryside of Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo.
Mahmoud Ammar told North Press that he tried to cross into Turkey a month ago, but failed three times. During these attempts, he was beaten and humiliated by the Turkish border guards, who also shot directly at those trying to cross the border, despite the presence of children and women.
He added: "They took us at night to a football stadium near the Turkish city of Rihaniyya, and there we were severely beaten by the Turkish gendarmerie, in addition to unleashing of dogs inside the stadium."
Amar says now that “even if I would become wealthy in Turkey, I will not go anymore.”