Some Syrians do manage to find work on the black market in Izmir. And some refuse to travel to Europe because they want to stay close to home. I came to Turkey because I ran away from military service, but my soul is in Damascus, and if the war stops today, I will be home tomorrow, says one fair-haired refugee.
But many, like Mamdouh, have no choice. The illegal work they can find in Turkey is so poorly paid that it does not come close to allowing them to save for a smugglers fare.
Young and earnest, Mamdouh lives with his father, mother, wife and three children in two rooms of a half-ruined house in the squalor of the old citadel area of Izmir. At night, along with many other Syrians, Mamdouh roams the streets scavenging for plastic bottles and cardboard boxes to sell. If he is lucky, he will make about 650 to 700 lira (roughly 160-170) a month. Around 450 lira goes on rent and bills.
But, in the swelling underclass that is Turkeys exploited and abused Syrian population, Mamdouh, with his black market job and a roof over his head, is one of the lucky ones.
Many of those less fortunate end up being enslaved by work masters who ferry refugees around southern Turkey as labourers and farmhands. These Syrians live in tents made of tarpaulin sheets stretched over branches and twigs.
In one settlement perched on the edge of a farm, just behind the animal sheds, an old woman stands in front of a plastic sheet and a few pots. These are her life possessions. Why are we here? she asks. Because they are fighting on our land. Isis and the Kurds and the regime are all fighting on our farms. We left it for them and came here.
Girls stand or sit outside; children paddle in the thick, foam-edged sludge that runs between the tents. The people living here are paid half the wages of Turkish workers; the work masters, who are usually Syrian themselves, take 10% of the wages as commission. Out of those wages the refugees have to pay rent for the land where they set up their tents, as well as extra for the use of water and electricity.
In a clearing in front of the tents, two sisters crouch in front of mud stoves cooking a communal lunch of fried potatoes and onion. They feed the fire with twigs and small chunks of plastic that produce bursts of thick white smoke. The elder sister, who is 19 and pregnant with her second child, squints but sits still in the acrid air. This baby, like her first, will be born into destitution.
For some, the waiting eventually pays off. Down a cobbled alleyway, behind the Basmane train station, two young Syrian couples walk briskly carrying cheap plastic backpacks and lifejackets. They are met by a middle-aged man in a tattered leather jacket and black jeans, who beckons to them. They walk in single file behind him. The man has said there is a boat leaving tonight.
But for many refugees who cross the sea and make their way north, the Greek-Macedonian border is the end of the line at least for now.
Shaima, a young teacher from Deir es-Zor in eastern
Syria, lives at one end of an impromptu camp in an abandoned train station in Idomeni. Her family fled their home when rebels fighting the Assad regime laid siege to it in 2012.
They were not supporters of the Syrian regime but the siege and mortar shelling turned the small, beautiful city on the banks of the Euphrates river into a battered maze of sniper alleyways.
First they settled in Hesseke, north-eastern Syria, but when Isis came they fled further north into Turkey. Last year Shaimas husband and her two older children walked to Germany. Now she is trying to catch up but the road is closed. She is stranded.