While much of the media surrounding Syrian refugees have focused on the hoards migrating to Europe, the majority remain in Syria’s neighboring country– Turkey. Turkey hosts the greatest number of displaced Syrians outside of Syria itself. The migration between Turkey and Greece has declined 95% since the peak in 2015. This is partially due to the detainment of smugglers within Turkey as well as the increasing difficulty of migration to Balkan countries. Thus, many smugglers are losing “customers” and are unable to continue their lucrative business. While the smuggling business is portrayed as a dirty business, many smugglers experience more complex situations than is typically portrayed. They are often smuggling relatives and are fearful for those they are sending to sea.
Other Syrians in Turkey are forced to work illegally, unable to afford the high price of smuggling into Europe. They work as farm laborers, unable to get work permits and being paid wages far below the legal minimum. Much of this labor is also child labor, keeping these children and youth for getting a proper education. It is important to recognize the harsh realities these Syrian refugees are experiencing in Turkey and include their experience in our understanding of the refugee crisis.