Because of the economic collapse and the spread of unemployment, thousands of young Syrians are knocking on the doors of immigration
For weeks, the Immigration and Passports Center in the Syrian capital, Damascus, has witnessed the largest influx of Syrians wishing to immigrate, as queues of thousands waiting from the early morning hours to mid-afternoon eagerly queue to obtain a passport that would enable them to leave the country at the earliest opportunity.
Young people constitute the largest group of Syrians wishing to emigrate, and this comes as a result of the economic collapse the country is witnessing, the spread of unemployment, and the deterioration of vital services provided by the regime’s government, such as electricity and the Internet, which negatively affects their standard of living, education and work.
In addition to the regular routes that young people seek to migrate through, there are other irregular and dangerous routes that they are forced to take in order to reach countries that respect their rights and provide opportunities that guarantee them a more stable and comfortable life.
Corruption and nepotism
The causes of overcrowding in the Immigration and Passports Center are not only limited to the increase in the number of people wishing to emigrate, coinciding with the tenth year of the severe economic crisis that the country is going through, but also the technical malfunctions that afflict the printing presses responsible for printing passport papers, and nepotism that a few enjoy Few of the Syrians, and rampant corruption in state institutions.
Muhammad, 27, a manager of a cafe in Damascus, told Al Jazeera Net – “If I had 150 thousand pounds (40 dollars), I would have been able to obtain the passport within days.” He adds, “Last month I managed to enter the immigration and passport center with great difficulty.” I registered my request on an urgent passport, and the employee told me to come back in a week, and here I am coming back after a month and my passport is still not ready.”
Muhammad has been striving for nearly two months to complete the papers necessary to obtain a passport, and when he came to the Immigration and Passports Center, one of the “collaborators” stopped him – a person who acts as an intermediary between senior officials in a government department and its auditors – and asked him if he needed help, and when Muhammad asked him about The type of this assistance, the man expressed his willingness to manage Muhammad’s papers and issue a passport for him within days for a sum of 50,000 pounds (15 dollars), and when the twenty-year-old man lashed out at the urgent amount, the cooperator said, “These fifty will feed 10 other people’s mouths,” according to Muhammad.
Muhammad had to visit the Immigration and Passport Center for 3 consecutive days until he was able to insert his fingerprint and complete the necessary signatures within the building. He has been waiting for a month for the issuance of his “urgent” passport, which is supposed to be issued within a week. “When we were in line waiting for our turn to arrive, he was An employee would come out to us from inside the building and ask people with their own eyes to enter with him to complete their papers, without caring about the anger and denunciation of the queues, and we used to see those people coming out after half an hour in the name of the building.”
Thousands of young men are waiting – as Muhammad is waiting – for a long period ranging from a month to a month and a half to obtain their passports, while a small number of “supported” Syrians enjoy obtaining their papers upon request, including the passport.
This was not the first time that Syrians crowded in front of the immigration center in Damascus. In mid-August last year, the government department witnessed a similar scene that lasted for weeks, and then the Minister of Interior in the regime’s government, Major General Muhammad al-Rahmoun, attributed that crowding to technical reasons beyond the control of The ministry was represented in the difficulty of obtaining the papers and inks needed to print passports, which are imported from abroad.
After several promises that the passport crisis would ease, the Minister of Interior announced last month the possibility of obtaining an urgent passport in one day for 100,000 pounds ($28.5), after its price was equal to 31,000 pounds ($9), while the consular price was raised. For an urgent passport abroad, it can cost $800, making the Syrian passport the most expensive passport in the world.
Reports in newspapers and websites close to the regime indicate that the European and US sanctions are one of the obstacles that the Ministry of Interior faces with regard to the issuance of passports, as the sanctions hinder the import of inks and papers from the exporting countries, which delays the printing process.
While the 40-year-old Syrian dissident and activist, Ayser, believes that the regime’s government has fabricated this crisis after the increased demand for travel documents and the increasing demand of Syrians to emigrate in recent times, so that the government contains these numbers pending the coming of the new year and the economic support it carries for the regime, and the possibility of achieving it Part of his promises he made last year under the slogan “Hope for Action”.
Acer told Al Jazeera Net, “The provision by countries such as the UAE and Egypt with facilities for Syrians to come to them, including industrialists and capital, puts pressure on the regime, which is mainly suffering from a stifling economic crisis and an unprecedented unemployment crisis in its areas of control, which is what prompts it to obstruct this migration by all available means. “.
This demand for immigration coincides with the calls of the Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Miqdad, for Syrian refugees to return to Syria, stressing that the government will provide all facilities that guarantee a safe return and a stable life for them, while most of the areas from which the refugees have been displaced are still destroyed and do not have access to basic services.
According to United Nations reports, there are more than 5.5 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries who have fled the country since 2011, while more than 6.7 million Syrians have been displaced within the country.
the final destination
Thousands of Syrian youths live in regime-controlled areas under the weight of poverty, unemployment, and the deterioration of the necessary services to pursue their university studies or daily work, such as electricity, the Internet, and transportation, which has turned their minimum rights to study and work into daily hardship and struggle, and in some cases into an unattainable dream.
Manar, 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Commerce and Economics at Damascus University, and one of the young women who are fed up with the deteriorating living conditions in the country – told Al Jazeera Net – “Two years have passed since my graduation, and I am still looking for an acceptable job that covers the minimum of my own expenses, I did not leave a company in the country without applying for a job there, and I have not been able to find a suitable job until today.”
Although Manar works today as an accountant in an import and export company in Damascus, her monthly salary no longer covers her expenses for more than a week.
Since 2019, the Syrian pound has lost about 750 percent of its value, following the imposition of Caesar’s US sanctions on the regime and the economic repercussions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, thus recording its largest decline since 2011, and one dollar today is equal to 3600 Syrian pounds.
Manar is thinking of immigration as a radical solution to her problem, and she is seriously looking for an opportunity to work in one of the Gulf or European countries via the Internet, using her network of relationships on social media, but so far she has not succeeded in obtaining one.
While Manar and other young Syrians have managed to get jobs, albeit with meager salaries, thousands more have been unemployed since graduating from their universities.
Muhannad (26 years old), a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Damascus University – told Al Jazeera Net – “There is no need in the country for graduates of universities in humanities and social sciences, since I graduated in 2018, I submitted my papers to the Ministry of Education to get a job, and to this day no one has contacted me nor I receive no message.”
Reports by the United Nations indicate that 90% of Syrians have been living below the poverty line since 2020, while 12.4 million Syrians suffer from food insecurity.
trying to survive
Since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2012 and the country’s entry into an economic crisis, the Syrian passport has become one of the weakest passports in the world, and despite the presence of some countries that still receive Syrians on difficult terms, the obstacles resulting from the terms of reception and hosting, whether for study, work or Those related to the high cost of travel compared to the income of a citizen inside Syria, still prevents young people from dreaming of emigrating.
Many young men and women are forced to think about the option of irregular migration through routes and roads that involve great risks, sometimes reaching the point of death by drowning or freezing, and although Zaid (28 years), a graduate of the Faculty of Informatics Engineering at Damascus University, is already aware of what may be in Waiting for him if he took the option of immigration “smuggling”, he remained insisting on his choice, and he tells Al Jazeera Net, “I decided to write to a number of European universities, but the study expenses specified by countries and universities were not within my reach, which prompted me to abandon the idea.”
However, with the deterioration of living and service conditions in the regime-controlled areas, Zaid came to the conviction that “traveling through smuggling routes that can lead to death, but may sustain survival, is a thousand times better than dying of starvation and oppression in Syria,” according to his opinion.
Zaid’s situation is not different from that of thousands of young Syrians who do not hesitate to take risks and expose themselves to the scourge of smuggling, escaping from the worst living and service reality since the beginning of the Syrian war.
After Turkey and Greece took strict measures to limit the flow of refugees following the massive wave of migration that the two countries witnessed in 2015, the travel route to Belarus and from there to the European Union has become one of the most prominent irregular migration routes chosen by Syrians, as thousands of migrants flowed at the end of last year to The Belarusian-Polish border, and the number of deaths in their ranks reached 11, including Syrians.