Growing refugee traffic boosts life jacket, boat sales in Turkey

The recent increase in refugees traveling through the Mediterranean Sea has prompted an unexpected boom in life jacket and inflatable boat sales in Turkey, a transit point for those who have been fleeing their homelands for a better life in European countries.

Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war, poverty, violence, hardship and persecution in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are taking risky journeys in small boats across the Mediterranean Sea this year, hoping to be granted asylum or illegally settle with the help of human traffickers in European countries.

According to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 44,000 Syrians arrived in the EU in July alone, the largest group of refugees arriving in Europe.

The refugee influx, however, has increased the volume of boat and life vests that are sold in the Turkish market. Boats for four people, which cost between TL 1,500 and TL 5,000, are out of stock both online and in stores, and life jackets, priced between TL 50 and TL 250, are quite hard to find.

In recent years, Turkey has become home to around 1.9 million Syrian refugees escaping the bloody civil war in their homeland. Unofficial figures speculate that the real number of refugees is around 2.5 million when unregistered migrants are included.

Earlier news reports this month reported that thousands of Syrian refugees hoping to travel to Europe via the Greek islands are in Turkey’s Aegean province of İzmir, turning it into a hub of human smuggling.

There are as many as 69,500 Syrian refugees currently living in İzmir according to official figures but the actual figure is believed to be around 100,000.

Even though their primary business is not the sale of such products, the garment industry in İzmir’s Basmane neighborhood has entered the market with several textile stores offering low-quality boats and life jackets that do not comply with safety requirements.


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