ANKARA, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Increasing smuggling activities along the porous Turkish-Syrian border, one of the consequences of the 30-month-old Syrian crisis, have posed a serious threat to the security of Turkey, analysts say.
The spike in the number of incidents in which the Turkish security forces had to confront with soaring numbers of smugglers, which at times turned into violent, indicates that Ankara is struggling to contain the fallout from Syria's border areas without state control.
"Turkey's border with Syria is 910 km long, and it is difficult to protect, let alone monitor this border from thousands of Syrians who had to turn to smuggling to survive in the conflict- ridden country," said Mesut Cevikalp, an expert on Syria, on Thursday.
"Job opportunities have been lost among Syrians amid fighting between the opposition and government forces. They mostly smuggle oil across the border to the Turkish side to make money on price differences," he said.
While for many villagers on the Turkish side, smuggling oil and other goods in a month is even more profitable than a year of farming.
Oil is moved in 60-liter barrels to the border at night. Smugglers on the Syrian side pay suppliers 40 Turkish lira (20 U.S. dollars) for a barrel but sell it for 90 Turkish lira (45 dollars) to their Turkish counterparts, who then sell for 110 to 120 Turkish lira (55 to 60 dollars) in domestic market.
"Since the mark-up is huge, there is a strong incentive to engage in smuggling," Cevikalp said.
"With the 'open-door policy,' Turkey has loosened controls along the border. When a lack of security occurred along the border, these groups started to be more active," said Oytun Orhan, analyst at the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies.
Last month, 18 Turkish soldiers were injured after a group of smugglers, who attempted to bring diesel from Syria into Turkey through a village in southeastern Hatay province's border town of Reyhanli, set diesel drums on fire to escape from capture.
The Turkish military has employed advanced technological devices, including thermal cameras, to secure border areas. Yet, that may not be enough to deter threats from Syria.
A consignment of live ammunition exploded on Tuesday as it was being smuggled into Turkey, killing six people in Hatay province; and in May, explosive materials smuggled into Turkey were used in the twin car bombing in Reyhanli that eventually killed 52.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has come under fire from the opposition for the flare-up of incidents at the border.
"In the past, there were no such incidents happening. The Syrian border leaks like a sieve," main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.
Smuggling is not new to the region. But successive Turkish governments have kept a blind eye to such activities in the impoverished southeast to a certain degree as the state was unable to create jobs for locals mainly due to terrorism threat.
"For centuries, smuggling has been a reality of life in the mainly poor, ethnically Kurdish southeast as a means for people to earn a living," said defense expert Lale Kemal.
But the intensity and the number of people involved in the illegal business have shot up dramatically in a couple of years along the Syrian border because of lax security and power vacuum in Syria.
"The smuggling activity is a lucrative business for powerful tribes now," Cevikalp said, adding that "smuggling of goods from Syria has contributed to rising prices of basic food commodities as well as for oil."