IS members are smuggled from al-Hawl camp for huge sums of money, amidst corruption in Asayish forces
Al-Hasakah - SMART
Human traffickers smuggle almost daily the families of Islamic State (IS) members in the al-Hawl camp, 70 kilometers south of al-Hasakah, Northeastern Syria, to areas inside or outside Syria. Those smugglers take advantage of security chaos, mediation by Kurdish people and facilitation from the Asayish forces of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration to smuggle IS families for large sums of money.
According to statistics of the camp administration, the al-Hawl camp is home to more than 70,000 people, most of them women and children of IS members and Iraqi refugees. The camp is considered a ticking time bomb as tens of thousands of people who have the same IS' thought live in it. Therefore, the camp is heavily guarded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is supported by the US-led International Coalition.
How they search for mediator
First of all, people who want to flee the al-Hawl camp search for the right smuggler. In this case, there must be a mediator of their acquaintances, or those who are known in the camp as mediators to communicate with the smuggler through them.
One of the smugglers (SMART preferred to unname him) said that he works to get IS’ families out from the camp through his relations with Kurdish people who have authority in the camp in al-Qamishli. The smuggler mentioned two people known as Shiraz and Nidal who provide him with forged identity papers and documents for the families to be smuggled for half the amount the smuggler will earn.
Another smuggler, known as Abu Balasem, reported to SMART that he deals with Farid Kadro, nicknamed Abu Jano, from al-Qamishli to smuggle people. Abu Balasem said that Abu Jano takes half of the money for identification papers to smuggle IS’ women who are Syrians only.
How smuggling takes place
A smuggler, who preferred to be unnamed, told the details of a smuggling process of a Syrian woman called Umm Salman, with her four children from Aleppo governorate. She is the wife of a Saudi IS commander who was killed by an air strike from the International Coalition in Deir al-Zor. The smuggler transferred Umm Salman to the village of al-Mansoura in al-Raqqa for $ 3,000.
The smuggler said, “I called Nidal who is in al-Qamishli and we agreed on a safe way to smuggle Umm Salman with her children and secure the road to the town of al-Mansoura. Despite the difficulty of the mission, money guarantees everything. When we give fake cards and bribes to the camp's security members and checkpoints on the road then we can achieve the process.”
The smuggler added that after leaving the camp the woman must obtain forged visitor pass papers stamped from the General Security of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration. These papers prove that the woman will visit the governorate of al-Raqqa coming from al-Qamishli so that she would not be stopped by checkpoints. This smuggling process lasted for 24 hours starting from the moment of leaving the camp.
The Autonomous Administration does not allow any Syrian person to enter its controlled areas unless they have the visitor pass papers, nor does it allow them to live in its controlled areas unless they have a sponsor.
The smuggler stated that he contributed to get more than 40 families out from the al-Hawl camp in the same way, in exchange for agreed amounts of money that determined according to the security situation of the family. The smuggler then transfer these families to other smugglers to take them to areas they choose for different prices.
Another smuggler, Abu Balasem, said that he was smuggling people to Turkey from the Tal Abyad area in northern al-Raqqa or Idlib governorate. However, the security restrictions of the Turkish border guards forced him to change his work areas to the al-Hawl camp due to the large amount of money paid there.
Abu Balasem added that the smuggling movement has become activated in coincidence with the battles of the SDF to gain control of the areas of Hajin, al-Sha’fah and al-Susah in Deir al-Zor, where they contact families arriving to the camp and agree with them on the required amount of money.
Foreign IS members pay $ 40,000 to be smuggled
The money paid to smuggle IS members and families from the al-Hawl camp vary according to their nationality and importance. A smuggler earns at least $ 1,000 for smuggling a child or a woman from the IS’ families, and up from $ 10,000 to $ 40,000 for Europeans.
The smuggler, Abu Balasem, said that smuggling small Syrian IS families, such as a widow of an IS member, a divorcee or children, costs between $ 2,500 and $ 4,000. They get out with legal papers and guarantees to enter al-Raqqa or al-Tabaqa.
Those who smuggle IS foreigners to Turkey or Iraq are paid between $ 25,000 and $ 40,000, especially those of Saudi nationality, according to Abu Balasem.
Most people who flee the al-Hawl camp head towards Turkey, but it is not the only smuggling destination. There are other destinations, such as the Iraqi-Syrian border, areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army in northern Aleppo, or areas controlled by the Syrian government forces west of the Euphrates, where the IS is still controlling areas in the Syrian desert.
In mid-2018, the German news magazine Der Spiegel published a news based on German intelligence data saying that IS created a website to guide its members to ways to flee Syria and return to Europe.
The website’s most important advice to IS members was not to use forged passports, but to replace them with real documents, or to give up all sorts of documents and leave all things that might indicate their former presence in Syria. The website also advises against discussing IS issues with foreigners, according to Der Spiegel.
Security services of Autonomous Administration provide facilitations in exchange for bribes
Sources from the camp said that as a result of the poor humanitarian situation, together with the availability of funds and other factors, many IS families fled the al-Hawl camp through smugglers dealing with Asayish members who oversee the camp.
Exclusive sources reported to SMART that a number of Asayish members, which is the security arm of the Autonomous Administration, are being arrested on charges of taking bribes for smuggling people from the camp. No accurate information on official statistics on their numbers or the number of smuggling cases were given.
The Internal Affairs Department of the Autonomous Administration reported to SMART that it has monitored several smuggling processes in the camp. However, it refused to provide SMART with a statistic of the smuggling cases restrained by its security services or the number of families who managed to escape the camp.
A source from the Asayish forces reported to SMART that members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stopped a car on the road to the village of al-Kalta (20 kilometers north of al-Raqqa) and arrested three women and a man in the car on charges of escaping the al-Hawl camp, after checking their ID cards.
On Sept. 20, 2018, the Autonomous Administration revealed that it is holding about 500 members, 1200 children and hundreds of women, who belong to the IS, from 44 Arab and foreign countries. The Autonomous Administration also handed over a number of IS families to their governments such as Kazakhstan, Russia, Chechnya, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago.
In mid-April 2016, the executive council of the Autonomous Administration opened the al-Hawl camp to receive forcibly displaced people fleeing from IS-controlled areas and refugees from the border areas of Iraq near the town of al-Hol, eastern al-Hasakah. The camp includes more than 3990 families, 2,807 of them are Iraqi refugee families, in addition to more than 79 foreign families