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These men are middle-class Syrians driven from formerly unremarkable lives to strike out on a remarkable journey.They are not natural adventurers but ordinary men used to the comforts of home, the convenience of urban life and the dignity of a modest but regular income; it is hard to imagine them trekking through the forests of Europe for days on end and hiding in fields from police.In a grim government compound 40 km from Vienna, five young Syrian men are huddled together examining the screen of a battered mobile phone.
Turkey now has around 760,000 Syrian refugees, although this number is uncertain and, until recently, many Syrians entered Turkey undetected over what they call the “Titanic” or the tiny stream crossed by a trampled barbed wire fence near Kilis, the previously unguarded border that is now closed.
The authorities give all Syrians a hazy “guest” status, allowing them to stay in the generously-stocked but overcrowded new camps in Reyhanli and Kilis on the border, or to rent property if they have private means.
It is in one of the most popular bars in Antakya that I encounter the fixer crowd and begin my journey.
At 10pm, the rooftop Baruti Bar in the Old Town is a riot of coloured lanterns, noisy chatter and a booming playlist of 1980s hits that clash horribly with the intermittent Islamic call to prayer.
For the past few weeks, the village of Muthmannsdorf has been a place of surreal limbo, where they wait for the life of freedom they believe Europe holds. Murat is an ethnic Turkmen from Damascus, a 28-year-old with striking green eyes and prematurely white-flecked hair.