The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Disregarding risks | Military battles and dreadful living conditions force Syrians to immigrate

For over 12 years, the Syrian crisis has been hard hitting Syrians since the Syrian regime chose the military solution to repress peaceful protestors who only called for freedom, justice and improvement of living conditions.


Millions of Syrian civilians have been forced to displace and left their homes and land for other areas inside Syria, where they headed to areas outside the control of the Syrian regime, such as Al-Raqqah, Idlib and Aleppo countryside.


With the considerable change in the map of alliances and power balances in the past years, mainly the control of jihadist organisations and Iranian-backed radical factions over different areas in the period between 2014 and 2016, the defeat of ISIS, the Turkish invasion under the military operations of “Olive Branch,” “Euphrates Shield” and “Peace Spring,” many Syrians have experienced multiple-times displacements inside Syria and many others had chosen to immigrate and leave their homeland.


Many factors have spurred Syrians to immigrate and flee the tragic situation in all zones of influence throughout Syria.


The “illegal” immigration of Syrians can be distributed into three categories depended on the destination they leave for: Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.


The most dangerous way out of Syria is crossing the border strip between Syria and Turkey, where the Syrian Observatory documented the death of 34 civilians, including a woman and three children, in gunfire by the Turkish border guards (Jandarma) in 2023, while attempting to cross the Syria-Turkey border. In addition, 52 other civilians, including three children and five women, were injured by the Turkish Jandarma in the same period.


Speaking to SOHR, a 42-year-old woman called “Om Salem” from Al-Raqqah city said “the living condition are dreadful and unemployment is on the rise. We are concern over our children about abusing illicit drugs and being affected by many worrying phenomena, that have been prevailing among young people, so my husband and I sold our real-estate units in order to send our children aged 25 and 19 to Europe through Turkey. One of the children could not cross the border strip, where he was arrested and brutally beaten, after several attempts to sneak into Turkey. This cost us over 4,000 USD, beside the considerable physical torture and psychological stress he endured in the detention centre where he stayed for six weeks, before he returned back home.”


“The other child managed to cross into Turkey and then to Germany through Bulgaria, after having paid large sums of money to smugglers estimated to be 11,000 USD. The trip from Turkey to Germany took three months, during which endured horrors and we believed that he would not survive, especially since many of his companions died during that trip in forests due to the freezing temperature, diseases, hunger and exhaustion. My children have had no options but to stay in Al-Raqqah where they might have become friends to bad guys and abused drugs or to leave to Europe in order to work and later bring the family together.”


In a testimony to SOHR, a 35-year-old man known by his initials as W. K. working in a workshop for construction and contracting in Beirut in Lebanon for two years said “after the situation deteriorated in my hometown, Aleppo city, and with the fierce battles in Al-Maysar area, I found myself forced to displace with my family to Al-Raqqah where we stayed for four years. The lack of job opportunities forced me to leave to Lebanon where I started working in a workshop that enabled me to improve the living conditions of my family. After having settled my situation, I brought in my family and secured work for my father, my brothers and my sisters in agriculture and packaging. Most of the Syrian families in Lebanon have had displaced for work, while others considered it as a ‘transit point’ before heading to Europe by sea, disregarding the considerable risks of this trip whose cost is lower than the cost of immigration through Turkey.”


A 58-year-old man called “Abu Ali” told SOHR that he sent his four children to Erbil city in northern Iraq, after having offered his house for rent and sold his furniture. The man said “the living conditions in Al-Raqqah is dire. Everything is expensive. My four children could not find jobs and they worked in coffee shops and similar places for daily wages, but their wages did not cover the high expenses of the family. I am a real-estate broker, but the region has recently witnessed recession regarding the purchasing and selling of real estate. Smugglers asked for a large sum of money to help my children to sneak into Europe, so I send my children to Erbil where they worked in different fields and managed to improve our living conditions.”


It is worth noting that different official parties and social and civil organisations work on raising awareness of young men and holding vocational courses and programs. One example, among many, is the Youth and Sports Committee in Al-Raqqah, which holds periodical computer courses and courses about maintenance of mobile phones and other sports activities.


Also, the Social Affairs Committee, Labour Committee and Women’s Committee stage vocational courses for females and livelihood programs and offer grants to the young owners of small and medium-sized enterprises.


Syrians seeking a safe haven disregard the threats to their safety and live and challenges they face, while traveling on such risky routes, both by land and by sea. Those Syrians also disregard the blackmail and swindle by many smugglers, where they see that there are no other options to leave death, oppression and poverty in Syria.