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Illegal cross-border trade between Syria and Turkey skyrockets during war

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Smuggling between Turkey and Syria has always remained a constant problem. With Syria wracked by civil war, smuggling between the two nations has increased exponentially. Syria is in no position to provide high-tech goods with factories smashed and ruined after nearly two years of nonstop fighting. Turkey and Syria today enjoy a stronger relationship, as the results of warfare has made smuggling more vital more than ever.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Turkey provides arms, humanitarian aid and medical supplies across the border. Vegetables, flour, tea, wood from window frames of bombarded houses, iron from exploded rockets and even cows and sheep are smuggled out of Syria to be sold in Turkey.

Some Syrians are benefiting from the porous border. Syrian smugglers are making profits from selling goods to Turks for higher prices than they bought them for in Syria. In addition, Syrian residents and shepherds are trading their belongings and livestock for money, fearing they will lose them from bombardment.

There is a very notable downside. Smuggling has raised the prices for Syrians who remain in the country. For example, tomatoes were for 60 Syrian pounds per kilo before smuggling started. They are now being sold for double the price.

"Smuggling has raised the prices for Syrians who remain in the country. Tomatoes were for 60 Syrian pounds per kilo (less than $1) before smuggling started. They are now being sold for double the price. And the price of olive oil has more than doubled," a Syrian man says.

"Meat has become very expensive. But more damaging is the fact that smuggling animals is ravaging livestock in Syria. This is heartbreaking."

The war has ravaged this Middle Eastern nation's economy. Consumer prices in Syria have already jumped by up to two-thirds, driven by spiraling violence and unfavorable exchange rates. Smuggling has only compounded the crisis.

"Some residents are not fleeing to Turkish camps because of the shelling. They are fleeing because they can no longer afford to eat in their country," a Syrian fighter with the Jond al-Rahman battalion operating in Idlib province. "So we need to put our hands together and stop the outflow of basic goods."

Many of the smugglers in Syria do so out of survival, and very reluctantly. "Even though I make 20 Turkish liras ($11) from loading trucks, I care about my country more. It hurts to see all its resources getting out. I have seen with my own eyes factory parts like generators and transistors being smuggled," a 22-year-old dormer computer programmer, now smuggler says.

"They are smuggling the whole of Syria out. Only its soil will be left to smuggle."

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