The mass exodus of refugees from Syria poses a number of problems. Not only for the refugees themselves, but for the nations who need to find ways to accommodate this influx of desperate and impoverished people.
In some cases, governments (particularly in Europe) have effectively shut their borders, denying the validity of asylum claims. This further exacerbates the plight faced by refugees.
However, as the saying goes, one man’s plight is another man’s opportunity. Given the sheer state of desperation that these refugees face, people smugglers have profited by presenting themselves as an alternative avenue out of Syria.
People Smuggling: desperate method to flee out of Syria
The conduct of people smugglers varies in terms of the harm inflicted on refugees. In some cases, the people smugglers will follow through on their commitment in ensuring that those fleeing violence safely reach their destination. Yet this will only be in exchange for a substantial sum of money.
In this sense, the harm inflicted is largely financial. This is fundamentally immoral, in that people smugglers are capitalising upon this crisis by preventing these refugees from escaping dangerous regions without paying a steep price.
As noted by Minority Rights Group, “there is today a thriving multi-million dollar business, developed around the refugee crisis in Syria”. It must also be noted that the vessels provided by these smugglers are often old, dilapidated or otherwise faulty. This poses a significant danger to refugees, given that such vessels have the potential to sink as they journey through open seas.
The promised safety is in fact a danger
In the most extreme cases, refugees who have been promised safe passage and employment opportunities upon arrival by these smugglers are effectively kidnapped and forced into slavery by these smugglers.
At that point the smugglers confiscate the identity documents and permits that would allow the refugee to return to Syria, ensuring that their choices are limited to submitting to the will of the traffickers or facing homelessness in a foreign land.
The Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reports a number of instances where human trafficking and forced prostitution rings have been discovered by authorities. In some cases, this process involves the refugees marrying the smuggler – a process that the smugglers repeat each time they want to bring in a new addition to their illicit organisation.
It is therefore evident that people smuggling poses a serious threat to the safety and wellbeing to Syrian refugees; a threat that is shared by refugees around the world.
However, the only way to effectively stop refugees from resorting to people smugglers is by providing the means for them to legally immigrate or seek asylum. This is due to the fundamental fact that desperate people will attempt to survive by any means necessary. As such, policies that place strict limits on immigration will inevitably work in favour of people smugglers.