Journalist Patrick Kingsley is at the border between Turkey and Syria.
“It used to be very easy for Syrians to get across,” he told Socialist Worker.
“But now the Turkish border guards are getting a lot more militant about shooting people, and they are building a wall. This is a result of the European Union (EU) outsourcing its migration policy.
“There are consequences to deciding Turkey is a ‘safe’ place, and one of them is Syrians getting shot trying to get out of Syria.”
Patrick is researching how Syrian refugee children are being pushed into child labour. As the Guardian newspaper’s migration correspondent, he has spent a year travelling between the flash points of the refugee crisis. This is the basis for his book, The New Odyssey, filled with interviews and firsthand observations.
“I wanted to show that this isn’t just about statistics,” he explained. “There are human beings involved and they have lives like any of us.
“I also think the European policy, from the EU and from states, is really misguided.
“I wanted to get people to realise that humans move, and they will continue to move. Movement can’t be stopped—but hopefully it can be channelled into something good.”
The book follows one refugee, Hashem al-Souki, throughout his journey from Syria to Sweden.
It describes horrific situations, from shipwrecks in the Mediterranean to families being broken up by police at the Croatian border.
Other migrants share their nightmarish stories of crossing the “second sea” that is the Sahara desert.
Patrick said, “One week I crossed seven borders and 1,300 people drowned trying to cross just one. It brought home the absurdity of this border regime we’ve created.
“Those who have the right passport and finances can cross borders. Others, because of where they are born, cannot.”
Patrick interviews people who smuggle refugees across borders—from activists to gangsters.
He explained, “Politicians always describe smugglers as if they are evil incarnate. In reality they’re just shifty businessmen responding to a demand.
“The more barriers are put up the more there is a need for smugglers to help people get around them.
“So smugglers are just a symptom of policies from national governments.
“Not to excuse the callous practices some of them employ, but they often fall into the business through lack of other opportunities.
“There are places where this is one of the only real sources of income.”
The book covers 2015, and ends on a hopeful note as many countries appeared to be adapting to accept the reality of refugees’ movement.
Now, Patrick says, “Those small green shoots of hope have been stamped out.
“The route through the Balkans has been closed. But the history of migration shows that when one route closes another opens.
“You can expect to see a resurgence of the route between Libya and Italy. In winter 2014-5 cargo boats full of people were pointed towards Italy.
“Smugglers on Facebook are already starting to advertise that route again.
“The only solution is to accept migration as the way of the world”.
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