Smuggling Syrians to Europe: We Give These People a Lifeline

"I am doing God's work," a 21-year-old people smuggler said as he collected fees and crammed people into his dinghy for the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.

"I have understood this humanitarian crisis and want to help in a merciful way," he said, according to The Telegraph.

"We give these people a lifeline."

The young Syrian man is one of hundreds operating as people smugglers along the Turkish coastline. He stuffs his dinghy full of people wanting to make the journey to Europe and takes them across the short stretch of sea to the Greek islands of Kos and Lesbos.

The trip costs over £400 a head, and often ends in tragedy. In the last six weeks alone over 8,000 people have attempted to cross the sea and around 7,700 have made this particular journey from Turkey to Greece. Of those, 371 have died.

The short stretch of water has claimed thousands of lives in total and divides families as well as countries.

Six-year-old Ibrahim survived with his parents, Bilal and Khaloud, after their dinghy capsized leaving them in the freezing Aegean sea for three hours.

His three cousins did not. The bodies of Mahmoud, 6, Hassa, 9, and Mohamed, 10, were pulled out of the water later on.

"We stayed in that water for three hours with children screaming all around," Bilal said. The remnant of the family are renting a cramped basement in the Turkish port of Izmir while they await another attempt.

"As I struggled to hold on to my children, it felt as if they were trying to beat back at me. That sea is hell."

The 21-year-old is one of hundreds of boat owners and handymen who make a lucrative profit from their trade.

"I want to build myself up as a smuggler, but not in immoral ways that God does not accept," he said, without explaining what that involves.

Turkey has recently tried to stem the tide of migrants flowing out of Syria and into Europe after an estimated 850,000 made the crossing into Greece last year. Although a warship has been sent to patrol the coast, attempts to stop people smugglers are rare, the 21-year-old Syrian said.

"They still see us leaving and do nothing to stop us, but they can't keep all these people here."

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