At Turkey’s frontier with Europe, everyone wants to be Syrian

By Joseph Nasr
March 7, 2020

Vastly outnumbered by Afghans and Pakistanis at the border, Syrians who have fled their country’s protracted civil war say most of their fellow migrants are jumping on the bandwagon for economic reasons, and then pretending to be Syrian refugees.

“It makes me angry when I meet people from Morocco, Pakistan and even Afghanistan,” said 20-year-old Yehya Rais from Aleppo, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting during the war.

“If only two to three thousand Syrians were here, maybe Greece would open the border. They know we are genuine refugees,” Rais said.

Thousands of migrants have been trying to get into Greece since Turkey said on Feb. 28 it would no longer try to keep them on its territory, as it had agreed to do with Brussels in 2016 in return for billions of euros in aid.

Turkey said it could no longer contain the hundreds of thousands of migrants it hosts, especially with the likelihood of more refugees fleeing intense fighting in northwestern Syria, but Greece is trying to keep the migrants out.

Rais’s animosity toward his fellow migrants is shared by his friend Labib Morghi.

“There is no war in Morocco, no war in Algeria and no war in Pakistan,” said 16-year-old Morghi. “Even in Afghanistan the situation is better than in Syria. We had to leave because our government wants to either kill us or displace us.”