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Migrant Misery a Gold Rush for Some in Turkey

September 27, 2015
Plain English Version

Store in Izmir, Turkey

The stores in Izmir, Turkey are packed with goods. Life jackets, rafts and inner tubes are much of the merchandise. It is called the “raft economy.” The streets are full of tour buses and taxis. They are carrying people to remote launch sites.

Izmir is a hub for migrants. It is a boomtown for residents. Migrants fleeing for their lives have been great for business. “Insurance offices” have sprung up. They say they will hold peoples’ money. Factories are turning out cheap life vests and so-called safety devices to be used at sea.

Business is growing. The migrants keep coming.

Turkey says it is doing all that it can to stem illegal activity. The crowded streets of Izmir show that the march to the boats and the sea is unchanged.

The biggest winners are well-organized criminal networks. It is said they pay off the authorities to look the other way. A lot of money is being made.

One man said that he sells 20 rafts a month for $4,000 each. The rafts are made in Turkey, just for the transport of migrants.

Most rafts hold about 45 passengers. Most passengers pay $1,200. Children go for half price. The smugglers earn a total of nearly $60,000 for each trip. About half of the money goes for bribes and commissions. The rest is profit.

Many Syrians who got to Izmir by raft are part of the industry. Mostly they recruit fellow Syrians to fill up rafts.

Another man sells 80 life vests a day at $13 each. Rival sellers of inner-tubes say the life vests are filled with foam that gets heavier in the water.

A Syrian said, as long as Greece keeps accepting migrants, the demand will continue.

Almost all migrants agree that getting out of harm’s way was a matter of life and death. Most also said they believe the west was responsible for the misery in their lives.

Source: The New York Times September 26, 2015

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