100,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey plan to form caravan and cross border into Greece
LONDON: A large group of Syrian refugees is gathering in Turkey in an attempt to form a convoy and enter the EU via Greece, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
About 100,000 of the more than 3.5 million Syrians in Turkey are expected to join the so-called “Caravan of Light,” according to organizers.
Plans to assemble the group have been taking shape for several weeks through the messaging app Telegram. Participants have been advised to bring essentials for the journey, such as tents, sleeping bags and canned food.
Caravan organizers announced that the starting point for the movement is Edirne in the northeast of Turkey. From there, the refugees hope to build enough momentum to allow them to cross the border into Greece unhindered.
A major factor behind the formation of the caravan movement is growing anger among refugees at the way they are treated in Turkey. Organizers criticized “abhorrent racism” that has led to deadly attacks on Syrians.
Faris Mohammed Al-Ali, an 18-year-old Syrian, was killed in Turkey in an alleged racist attack this month, while Leyla Mohammed, 70, was the victim of an assault in May that provoked anger around the world.
“Syrian refugees have fled a bloody conflict, torture, enforced disappearance and other abhorrent abuses to seek safety in Turkey. It is appalling that they now find themselves facing further attacks,” said Sara Hashash of human rights group Syria Campaign.
Khairu, a 22-year-old Syrian who has lived in Turkey since 2018, told The Guardian: “There is no future for me and every Syrian here.” He fears “a sudden killing or barbaric deportation” and added that he simply wants to “live without the fear of tomorrow, because fear of tomorrow is a very slow death.”
However, there are concerns among some members of the 100,000-strong Telegram group that deportation to Syria might be used as a punishment if the refugees are caught attempting to cross into Greece.
Taha Elghazi, a prominent Syrian refugee activist in Turkey, said he understands the concerns among Syrians living in the country about racism and economic woes but warned that the caravan is likely to fail in its goals.
A clampdown by Turkish authorities along the border with Greece, as well as recent EU measures to tighten security, “mean that there will be brutal treatment of refugees when they are on this trip, and the caravan’s approach is not clear and it may endanger them,” he said.
Caravan leaders have urged the UN to take action to protect Syrian refugees from “all forms of physical, psychological and political abuse,” and called on the EU “to open their doors to this convoy or find immediate solutions.”
Yuko Narushima, a spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, told The Guardian: “We are concerned for the safety and well-being of those who decide to take part in this movement, which — based on previous experiences with similar organized movements around the world — would probably be risky and dangerous.”