Immigration: The dream of most Syrians inside the country

Sarouja neighborhood in the center of Damascus - February 3, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

Sarouja neighborhood in the center of Damascus - February 3, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)


Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi

Thousands of Syrians have rushed to the streets in dozens of cities, villages, and towns across Syria since March 2011, where they challenged fear and were united by “hope” for the overthrow of the regime and building a better future. However, the regime’s apparatus worked on weakening the people’s will through arrest, violence, bombing, and even by instigating strife and provoking mutual fear among different components of the country’s social spectrum.

With the outbreak of violence, thousands of Syrians whose cities were bombed took refuge in neighboring countries and later to Europe, with the primary motive for seeking refuge being to avoid death and arrest by the Syrian regime forces.

Years later, in 2024, immigration has not stopped, with differing reasons and motivations, and Syria is no longer the country its people knew. Division over the simplest details arose amidst severe living, economic, and political crises, and there was a geographical division under the de facto authorities in four different areas.

Amidst all these conditions and the current division, most Syrians within the country perhaps share one common dream: immigration and traveling to another country that offers hope for a better future, whether that be by permanently reaching one of the European countries or to neighboring countries, specifically Iraq or the UAE, in search of work.

After political reasons, fleeing war and violence were the primary motives for the migration of hundreds of thousands, living conditions, economic circumstances, and basic services have also become a leading reason.

Security conditions and military service

“This country is unlivable, if I had the money I would travel and never stay,” Huda al-Hamad, from the city of Qamishli, northeast Syria, told Enab Baladi.

She added that immigration has become the dream of every Syrian living inside Syria, due to the difficult circumstances surrounding the Syrians.

Al-Hamad is not the only one thinking this way among those met by Enab Baladi, the same applies to Abdul Aziz al-Mutlaq (23 years old), a college of science student in the city of al-Hasakah.

Al-Mutlaq wants to travel as soon as he finishes his studies by any means necessary; considering that emigration out of the country has become the only solution for youth to avoid compulsory military service, whether with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or the regime, in addition to security pursuits and tough living conditions.

Despite the current difficult circumstances, al-Mutlaq has already planned his emigration, traveling to Turkey, then to Bulgaria, and then to Germany. The cost of this journey is estimated at around 15,000 US dollars.

His current financial circumstances stand as an obstacle to his migration, and he told Enab Baladi that this step requires significant financial costs, which may force his parents to sell the grocery store they own so he can secure his journey.

Al-Mutlaq is willing to wait until he finishes his university studies before emigrating, with two of his brothers already migrated to Austria and Germany.

Economic motives

Mohammed al-Jadaa (29 years old), works as a day laborer and earns about 50,000 Syrian pounds, told Enab Baladi that what he earns “does not satisfy the basic needs of his family of five.”

Al-Jadaa confirmed his desire to immigrate, but securing the required amount to take this step has become difficult, as he owns nothing that can be sold to cover the costs of the trip, and he has no choice but to borrow with deferred payment, which means doubling the amount upon repayment.

The situation of Youssef (25 years old) from Idlib province, northwest Syria, is not much different, and he told Enab Baladi that he is waiting for a new opportunity to enter Turkey and cross from there to Europe, despite the risks of crossing the borders, with the tightened measures by the Turkish border guards.

According to Youssef, the main motive for immigration is the economic factor in the first place, and the absence of a clear future perspective.

The daily wage for workers in Idlib does not exceed 100 Turkish liras (approximately three US dollars).

The minimum wage in areas of northeast Syria controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is one million Syrian pounds (71.5 US dollars), and the minimum wage of employees in areas under the control of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo and Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain ranges between 35 and 59 US dollars.

Poverty rates amount to 90% among Syrians, and 70% of the population, i.e., about 15 million Syrians, need humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

The financial appeal for humanitarian aid amounts to 11.1 billion US dollars, making it the largest in the world. Water security is also absent, as Syria is one of the countries most prone to drought.

Syrians formed the largest group of asylum applicants, according to the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) data, having submitted 181,000 asylum applications, registering an increase of 38% compared to 2022.

Syrians ranked first in asylum applications submitted to Germany since the beginning of 2024, with a total of 14,456 asylum applications, among them 14,024 first-time asylum applications, and 432 follow-up requests.

Asylum applications in the European Union increased by 18% during 2023, according to data published by the EUAA, on February 28.

Four similar geographies

The Syrians’ circumstances within different control areas do not differ much, forming a common reason for them to consider leaving the country.

Today, Syrians within the country live in four geographical areas, with the regime controlling the largest territory, which includes major provinces such as the capital Damascus, Aleppo the economic capital, and the provinces Homs, Hama, and all the coastal cities, with limited influence in the south in As-Suwayda and Daraa, and in the northeast in Deir Ezzor.

Meanwhile, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) controls the province of Idlib and some of its villages and villages in the Latakia countryside.

In northeast Syria, the SDF controls most of the areas east of the Euphrates River, while areas in the countryside of Aleppo are under the control of the Interim Government and factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA) supported by Turkey.

Rola (38 years old), a married mother of three from al-Salihiyah neighborhood in Damascus, told Enab Baladi that the idea of emigration has been haunting her continually for years. She attempted to migrate four years ago by applying for a tourist visa at the French embassy in Beirut, but her application was denied.

Rola risked sending her son, who is just 15, to the Netherlands via Libya and then Italy. Shortly after his arrival, he applied for family reunification, and she is still waiting for approval to join him.

Rola pointed out that the security and living situation has become unbearable for anyone, especially with the significant rise in prices and the increase of corruption everywhere. Rola fears that the future could be much worse, or that European decisions might be issued preventing further immigration.

Samir (55 years old), from the al-Qusour neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs, said that his health conditions would not deter him from attempting to travel.

Samir suffers from a heart disease and had to undergo surgery in 2014. After ten years, he decided to migrate through Libya to Europe. He has already sold his house and is waiting for the end of the winter season to travel.

Samir mentioned that waiting to get rid of a life akin to imprisonment is extremely exhausting.

The minimum government salary in areas controlled by the Syrian regime is 279,000 Syrian pounds (about 20 USD), and government salaries in areas controlled by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in Idlib range between 80 and 110 dollars.

Mohammad speaks about the daily fear and contemplating what might be encountered during the migration journey. But with a slight comparison, the risks of thinking are far more merciful than the risks of living in Syria. This country is no longer suitable for human habitation, amid corruption, increasing repression, and difficult economic life, as he told Enab Baladi.

Cyprus experienced an increase in the number of migrants arriving by boats in the recent months of 2023, with a 60% increase, most of whom are Syrians reaching via the sea from Syria and Lebanon.

Migrants coming from Turkey or Syria and from Lebanon via the Mediterranean Sea to the shores of Cyprus constitute 5% of asylum seekers, and the remaining percentage is for those coming from Northern Turkish Cyprus, according to a study prepared by the Press and Media Office sponsored by the Ministry of the Interior in the Greek Republic of Cyprus.

The Operations and Policy Center (OPC) published, on May 5, 2021, a survey study that tried to understand the motives behind voluntary migration of some residents of Damascus city outside of Syria, and the factors that reinforce the orientation towards migration, coinciding with what Syrian areas are witnessing of exceptional decline in living standards.

The vast majority of respondents expressed their desire to emigrate from Syria, with their percentage exceeding 63%, while those who do not possess the drive towards migration constituted 36.5%.

The number of dead and missing in the Mediterranean during the past year reached 3,760 people, according to the Operational Data Portal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In its latest statistics, on January 29th last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that approximately 100 migrants died or went missing in the central and eastern Mediterranean in January of the year 2024.

The organization added via its official website that the number was more than doubled in the same time frame of the previous year.



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