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Coyote services aren't exclusive to the Texas/Mexico border

(File photo)

They're often exploited, fleeing their countries, looking for a better life. That's what most immigrants face when they decide to leave their countries. This isn't something unique for those trying to get into the U.S. I flew 5,500 miles away to Berlin, where I learned first hand that coyotes services aren't exclusive to the U.S./Mexico border.

More than 5 thousand miles away, the same immigration crisis, just in a different part of the world, Syrian people fleeing war-torn Syria for Europe.

Alan Kurdi, died at 2 yrs old, when he and his family were Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece on an inflatable boat when it sank. 2 men were found guilty of human trafficking.

"Originally I come from Syria from Aleppo, I decided to do this journey in 2015," said Firas Zkiar, who made the same trip as 2-yr-old Alan just months before the toddler died.

"It got to the point, where that, I can't stay anymore, so I decided to do this trip. But of course, I try to do it without my wife and my kid because it was too dangerous and too risky," said Zkiar.

He made it to Turkey on what Syrian refugees call "death boats."

"You have two kinds of boats, either you have rubber boats like the one you fill up with the air, and it's designed for emergency cases. Or a yacht, which is a very rusty yacht, and it's supposed to make the last journey, so it's a matter of when it will sink, if it sinks on the other side, then the destination is good, it needs to sink in order for the coast guard not to take it back to the place it started the trip from," said Zkiar.

If it doesn't sink, the refugees are sent back where they came from by the Coast Guard, so it must sink. After 4 times, Zkiar made it to the Greek Isles, where he was given papers that allowed him to stay for only 6 months.

"I went to a city called zmir and zmir is the center of the smugglers in Turkey, so the main idea is to give your money to the smugglers in order for them to send you one of the illegal boats from Turkey to Greece Island," said Zkiar.

Good connections he says are a must so he followed other's path and social media.

"We are very active in the social media and through the internet. So normally you get all the information you want from the old refugees. My trip was designed mainly by two of my friends The guy in Denmark gave me the contacts of the smugglers from Turkey to Greece. The idea when you meet the smugglers you have to make a deal with them and then you have to put the money, by a third party, and you get like a secret code, and you try to escape. If you make it to the other side you can pull the smugglers and you can give him the secret code, by this way, he can go and collect his money from the third-party," said Zkiar.

Once in Greece, Zkiar had the number for someone who would make 2 fake ids for him. Those ids got him here to Berlin, Germany, like thousands of other Syrians. According to the United Nations, just in 2016 alone, human smugglers moved 375,000 people into the European Union via one of 3 Mediterranean routes. Human smugglers made between $320- $550 million, but now, new routes are being used since the European Union has tightened their rules. A route more dangerous to women and children according to Zkiar.

"The new route is from Syria to Libya and then on to Italy, but as Syrians in Berlin tell me, there are many reports of women being raped and children being killed for their organs," said Zkiar.

Main emerging characteristics for smuggled migrants

  • While many migrants are smuggled to destinations relatively close to their origin countries, some are smuggled across regions and continents. Migrants who are smuggled through long-distance routes typically originate from the Horn of Africa and West Africa, the Syrian Arab Republic and Afghanistan, and South and East Asia.
  • Most smuggled migrants are adult males. Larger shares of females and minors are recorded for some citizenships.
  • Socio-economic conditions, insecurity and environmental disasters often drive large migration movements. The demand for migrant smuggling largely stems from limited opportunities for legal migration and proactive recruitment and misinformation by smugglers.
  • Smuggling of migrants is a deadly crime. Every year, thousands of migrants are killed as a result of smuggling activities.
  • Mass killings, systematic torture, sexual violence, exploitation and kidnapping of smuggled migrants for extortion are recorded along many of the smuggling routes.
  • Violations of migrants’ rights to protection, enshrined in the UN Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, have been recorded in some countries.

Source: UNODC

For the complete study, go to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2018 Global Study on Smuggling of Immigrants

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