ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey this year overtook Pakistan to become the country hosting the most refugees, with 2.2 million from Syria and 200,000 from Iraq.
The mass migration of people through the country to Europe is creating a thriving business. Even in Istanbul, which is not a launching point, refugees can be found preparing for the voyage across the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands, buying life jackets and other supplies.
They then head to the coast with the aid of smugglers. From there, they risk the often-dangerous crossing in frail boats. Once they get to Greece, most head for wealthier nations in northern and western Europe.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis has cost Turkey nearly $8 billion, government officials say. Some 260,000 people have been placed in refugee camps but most are left struggling on their own in cities across the country. Though Turkey has elections Sunday, refugees have not been a major topic of discussion.
David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that there are currently more Syrian refugees in Istanbul than the 366,000 the committee estimates are spread through all the rest of Europe.
Here's a gallery of photos showing Syrians in Istanbul as they prepare for trips to Europe or simply pass the time.