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Samer Fanari, "We have to use illegal ways"

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JOHANNESBURG, 25 September 2013 (IRIN) - Samer Fanari, 27, defected
from the Syrian army a year and a half ago and crossed into Turkey with
nothing but his military tags. His plan was to travel to Sweden where
his mother lives and apply for asylum, but he only got as far as
Greece. He told IRIN about his experiences.

"In Istanbul [Turkey's largest city], there's a place called Aksaray
where you can find thousands of people who take people to Europe. I
paid someone 400 euros [US$540] to take me to the Greek border, but now
it costs 3,000 euros [$4,051] because so many people want to go.

"There's two ways to get there: the first one is walking, and the other
is by sea. I chose the first one because it's cheaper and more safe,
but it's so hard.

"First they took 20 of us in a small car for three hours, then they
took us to the woods and we walked for two to three hours. After that
we arrived at a big river and then the Turkish police caught us,
finger-printed us and detained us for five days. Then they took us back
to Syria. After one hour, I went back to Turkey and started again, and
this time I crossed the border [into Greece].

"It's so bad in Greece; they don't give you any papers or anything.
There's no work, no hope, nothing. I wanted to go from Athens to Sweden
by plane.

"There's a place there [in Athens] called Omonia where you can buy fake
passports, IDs, [identity documents] anything you want. Then you go to
the airport. But you have to do it so many times because they always
catch the fake passports. I tried that maybe 10 times and they caught
me 10 times. Each time, they just confiscated the passport or ID and
said, 'Go'.

"I ran out of money eventually and went back to Turkey and am still
living here. Now I want to go again, but this time from the airport in
Istanbul. I have lots of friends who have done it, but it's so
expensive - you have to pay, like, 9,000 euros [$12,155] just for the
fake documents. Most people can't afford it.

"There are people going from Egypt to Italy by boat. It's so dangerous
- three days on the sea - some people die. They pay [smugglers] $400 or

"People also go from Turkey to Bulgaria. No one wants to stay in
Bulgaria, but it's a cheap way. From there, they all try to go to
Sweden or Germany, because they can get papers quickly there.

"It's impossible to go to an embassy and apply for a visa if you are
Syrian. It used to be possible, but now they don't give us any help in
the embassies. They know we have to use illegal ways.

"I will leave for Sweden in about a month when I have enough money. I
will get papers there and then I can go anywhere I want to go."


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