Often referred to by locals as “little Syria” due to the influx of Syrian refugees, Basmane, a district located in the center of Izmir—Turkey’s third largest city—has changed dramatically within the past few years. While many Syrians still choose to remain in Turkey, most leave the refugee camps for other cities, such as Izmir, Istanbul, or Ankara. Others try and migrate to Europe despite the dangers and risks associated with that journey. This has in turn created profitable opportunities for human traffickers. Until they can attempt the journey, whether to Europe or elsewhere, refugees remain here, stranded in Izmir. In Basmane, out and about in the neighborhood’s little cafés, refugees stand ready to leave at any second, their bags packed as a precaution.
The shops of Basmane, meanwhile, are ready to profit from the desperation of the refugees. At night, sellers offering life vests and other waterproof items open their stores and stalls, eager to serve customers preparing themselves for an imminent sea journey. The evening is the busiest part of the day for these merchants and stranded Syrians. Some refugees casually light cigarettes and sip on coffee, waiting to find their way across the Mediterranean. Others purchase items quickly and depart.
For those leaving, the day begins at night, and the night is only just beginning.
October 2015, Izmir