Syrians meet mainly two kinds of smugglers during their trip North: sea and land smugglers. The news usually cover traffickers when they talk about dangerous people gaining from the smuggling of human beings. Human smugglers are usually associated to forced prostitution or forced land working; we think of them as kidnappers who keep people working for them against their will through the use of force or threats.
When we talk about the traffickers who control the boast leaving from Libya, Egypt and Turkey or about the ones who offer rides from Milan, south Italy or Greece, in most cases we talk about people who are contacted directly by the Syrians themselves. Why?
As we have seen before, there is no legal way for Syrians (as for many others) to arrive to Europe, Sweden, or any other country they might prefer. In a world that does not allow to get visas, humanitarian corridors, nor temporary permits to apply for asylum in security, the trafficker becomes and is (although unreliable and dangerous) the only source of hope of getting out of a dangerous situation. Human smugglers give the option of going into safety and arrive to Europe.
Even once in Europe or Italy, it is essential for Syrians to remain hidden and not be seen at borders by the police. If the fail they will have to leave their fingerprints and apply for asylum in a state they don’t want that would probably refuse their application and might not have an efficient asylum system. Syrians have to move in silence through Europe. Some, would decide to leave Milan by train. The trip by train is considered very risky because, having to go around Switzerland that is not part of the EU, needs to take many stops: Milan, Ventimiglia, Niece, Paris, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Malmo. There are at least four borders to cross and six train stations where to buy tickets in different languages and not be noticed by the police.
It is understandable why, often scared and confused and so near to their goal, most people would chose to contact someone who will ensure them to take care of their arrival to destination: however unreliable or violent this person might be. Smugglers ask for 700 euro per person for a car ride to Sweden. Sometimes they would get the money and not show up, or they might leave people at service areas on the highway, some will leave people in the middle of Austria or northern Italy or they might inform the family that they do not all fit in the car at the last minute. The paradox is that, once abandoned by Europe and Italy that even pretends they do not exist, these people are somehow forced to rely on human traffickers who become in this scenario their only liaison and protection from the world that surrounds them.