Syrians in the Shrubbery

Firstly let me apologise for the apparently flippant title; it is not intended to diminish the real hardship that many refugees are currently experiencing. No it was done with the intention of pulling in a few more of the ever ‘shrinking attention span social-media’ (SASS) generation into a serious subject. If you ‘Dear Reader’ are one of these people then I guess it did its job, unless of course you have now taken offence at being labelled Generation SASS!

The title is actually not very far from the truth. About ten days ago I was woken in the early hours of the morning by voices coming from the direction of my garden. There was a Turkish voice but also a different Turkic sounding language being spoken, which I later learned was Syrian Arabic. This being the Turkish seaside in summer, people stay out late. It is also the middle of Ramadan, when the handful of my neighbours who still observe it properly rise well before the sun does to eat their breakfasts, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep. However, I had just nodded off when I heard shouting and noticed the coloured flashing lights of a Jandarma (Countryside Police Force) truck. The next day a neighbour informed me that a group of about seven Syrian refugees had been hiding in gardens waiting for a boat, they were told would leave from our beach at midnight. The boat they said they had paid for had seemingly never arrived.

I wish I could say there was something unusual about this story but sadly it is being repeated up and down the entire length of the Turkish Aegean coastline every single night. Desperate people trying to make it to Greece, which despite its own economic collapse is still seen as the gateway to the European Union. The Syrians I heard were heading for the Greek Island of Kos, which I can clearly see from my house most days. However, because so many other Greek islands also lie in close proximity to the Turkish coastline, they have received more than their fair share of people looking for political asylum. Only yesterday the large island of Lesbos declared that it has received more refugees than at any time since the calamitous end to the Greek – Turkish War of Independence in 1922, when in the space of a few weeks almost a million people fled from Turkey to Greece ahead of the victorious Turkish forces.

Syrian Refugees in Bodrum
Photo care of Hurriyet Newspaper

This week the United Nations confirmed that more than four million Syrians – a sixth of the population – have fled abroad to escape the conflict in their country. A surge in the number of people crossing into Turkey has increased this total by one million in just 10 months. Turkey is now home to the largest number of Syrians refugees – almost 2 million – and is reportedly preparing for a new influx as the conflict escalates near the Syrian border.

Syrians also made up about a third of the 137,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa in the first half of 2015. In all, about 270,000 Syrians have gone that more dangerous route to seek asylum in Europe. However, Europe now seems so totally distracted by the economic woes of Greece and its almost inevitable exit from the Eurozone, that it appears devoid of any real will or ideas to come up with a sustainable solution to deal with the massive influx, beyond building higher fences and sending out more boats to collect survivors from those flimsy boats that sink long before they can make landfall.

Of course where ever you have a crisis, there will be those who can see a quick profit in it. Enter the people traffickers, who are now operating in a business worth hundreds of millions of Euros, anywhere in a long sweep of coastline between the African Atlantic coast all the way around the Mediterranean to the land border between Turkey and Greece. Be they mafia, smaller local players or just petty criminals with a single boat to sell, all are now trying to cash in on the unfolding human tragedy. For them the more miserable the better because that is what motivates the refugees to pay such high amounts for life threatening journeys often in conditions that most people wouldn’t even subject animals to.

Returning to my opening scene. People smuggling is now so widespread here that the crooks who run these operations along the Aegean coast now barely even try to hide their activities anymore and in some areas they have terrorised the local residents to such an extent that some of them have now banded together and taken up arms against the smugglers.

People Smugglers in Bademli Village
Photo care of Sabah Newspaper

Fed up with smugglers using their fields and empty houses for their operations to the Greek island of Lesbos, locals in Bademli village in the province of Canakkale recently argued with a group of smugglers they confronted on the coast. However the smugglers soon returned in a convoy of cars and opened fire into the air in the village square in an attempt to intimidate the villagers, who they did not realise were also armed with pistols and rifles. The villagers quickly overpowered the group and captured five Turkish smugglers who they photographed after tying to poles in the square. Some of the photos were then made into posters and put up in the area to make an example of them and warn off other smugglers. The men were then handed to Jandarma when they arrived in the village the next morning. However, only one of these men was arrested while some of the others, who were quickly released, returned the very next night. They were now scared to enter the village, but still fired into the air nearby.

One of the villagers who preferred to remain anonymous recently told Sabah newspaper that hundreds of migrants still descend into Bademli, every single night in taxi’s on foot or in smugglers trucks, which also carry boats. Nobody seems interested in stopping them so we now patrol our fields, to prevent them demolishing fences and walls and also any out buildings and summer houses, which is where the smugglers often hide the refugees until night falls. The two sides still occasionally exchange fire at night.

Until the World decides to deal with the catastrophic war in Syria once and for all, such scenes are undoubtedly going to be repeated and will probably get worse long before they get better.


12 thoughts on “Syrians in the Shrubbery

  1. I did not realize it was so bad. What are the Turks doing if anything to stop them? Makes me worried that some of these 2 million might be ISIS just slipping into Europe. No it must be a certainty that some of them are.
    Not good


  2. Here in Malaysia we are having our own influx of refugees. No more than a few thousand. But the media makes it feel as if we are under attack. I can’t imagine how Turkish people feel with 2,000,0000 but I am sure they will not be so alarmist and ridiculous as out nationalist parties. In all of this people seem to forget that these poor unfortunates have lost everything and need help not scorn.

  3. I am not sure about Syrians but is this not a problem that is going to bite all our butts before we know it. The UN is just a joke

  4. When I was a boy I remember Turkey as being not too interested in what happened over its borders. A secular state that is what Ataturk built. Now it seems because of just one stubborn man who will not go away even after the people kick him down at the last election the country always seems to be on the edge of jumping into any fight as long as it is in favour of Sunni Islam. Instead of the EU, Turkey now finds itself partners with other Sunni’s like Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships. No one believes that Turkey (RTE)) would have hesitated for more than a few weeks if ISIS were Shia like Iran and not Sunni. Now Erdogan rattles his sword about the Kurds in Syria not ISIS and that is why my motherland has so many refugees. I live in Germany now but surely I am not alone in wondering why the people tolerate this blind ambition which threatens to drag my brothers into the filthy sectarian wars of the middle east just so he can leave a legacy as being Tyyip the religious one. Wake up Turkey!

  5. You speak as if you care but you live in Germany. Secular did not work too well but AK partesi fixed our economy and now things slip a little we turn our back on him. He is only ambitious because he cares for Turkey. Sunni or Shia or Alevi or Kurd he wants to help all people.

    • Just to let you both know (Emre & Ahmet) thank you for your comments and your response Ahmet. However, the other additional Comments will not be posted. As you both know and as I pointed out only last post – I live in a country where there have been more journalists and writers jailed in the last 2 years than in any other country… so… please consider this before commenting from the safety of another country. Thank You

  6. Yeah traffickers are rats but the reason all this is happening is because of 2 armies the syrians an ISL. Nuke both of them and problem solved Am I right or am I right?

    • Your plan may have worked Forrest if it there wasn’t for the small problem of collateral damage. A 6th of the population may have left Syria but that still leaves 5/6ths who are forced to live amongst the rubble and who on occasions are used like human shields.

  7. Bonjour Anthony

    Summer Greetings from Bretagne!

    It would be weird if suddenly refugees started coming in my garden here in my summer cottage. I know they have them coming in through Italy and of course they make up most of Calais now. I hope they can fix it for all those poor children

    Marie {:)B< x

  8. Hello
    This is my first time here

    I was moved by the story and the terrible life they are having. However, my main concern is am I a SASS or a Generation Y or was it Z 1991?

    Carolyn Reed

    • Hi Carolyn
      There are many opinions and vague broad-brush dates like ‘From the mid eighties to…’You seem to be a Generation Y which most say runs from 1975 to 1995. Oddly Generation X, which is me, runs on until 1981 so there is a 6 year overlap. Hence my son is a generation X and a Y. The good news is it doesn’t really matter beyond being just fancy labeling to put on people.

  9. For many years Turkey kept its nose out of neighbours business now it interfears and takes a position on every problem because of Erdogan. No more sitting on the fence. If you are a Sunni he will back you even if you are wrong but if you are Shiite he will oppose you even if you are right. Sectarian is a wrong way for Turkey a way that will drag us into a war one day.


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