Երեքշաբթի, 25. 06. 2024

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Keep the Lamb for the Wolves or How Syrian Refugees Live in Turkey

By SOPHIA HAGOPIAN

The topic of the Syrian migrants in Turkey has been in the center of attention of the international community for a long time now. This became a bigger problem when the European community became directly linked to it. More than half of these migrants have been taking shelter in Turkey for over four years, and they move from Turkey to Europe.

Syrian refugees officially began to enter Turkey in April 2011. Opening its doors for the migrants, Turkey showed its “hospitality” and “generosity”, and of course, there was a price.
The fact that the EU met the Turkish government’s demands to set a free visa regime for the Turks and 3 billion Euros didn’t come as a surprise at all, and the fact that in a couple of years Europe, which is trying to relieve itself of the burden of Syrian refugees, will face a more dangerous issue (greater “Turkification” of European cities) by issuing visas to the Turks, that is a problem that only concerns the Europeans.

What I want to discuss is whether Turkey, which accepts these great gifts, will be able to solve the issues facing so many migrants or not, or whether it solves these people’s issues or not. First, let’s try to understand-if Turkey is so hospitable and generous towards these refugees, why are hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping Turkish harbors to Europe? Besides visas, the dollars and the Euros, in what other way are the Turks benefiting from the heavy situation that the Syrian migrants are in?

Based on official statistics, there are over 2,200,000 Syrian migrants living in Turkey. According to the Turkish government, it has spent 8 billion dollars on the migrants. While most of the citizens of Turkey complain about the Turkish government’s decision to receive so many Syrian migrants in the country already in a poor economic condition, the Turkish-Syrian border remains open and continues to serve not only those who have escaped the war, but also Islamist terrorists who have been entering and exiting the border for years. As a matter of fact, the terrorists’ offices are located in the heart of Istanbul, and the terrorists often receive free medical aid in Urfa and Aintab.

Before Erdogan’s last negotiations in Brussels, Turkey has received over 400,000,000 dollars from foreign countries to take care of the expenses for Syrian migrants. During recent discussions on the issue with Europe, as is known, Turkey gained its last “large winning” in this game due to the 3 billion Euro agreement over the free visa regime between Turkey and the EU and “for the purpose of meeting all the needs of Syrian migrants and ensuring conditions for them not to leave their familiar region”.

How is everything with those around whom this game is being played? Do they really want to stay in Turkey? Perhaps few are interested in this.

Our surveys and short study were devoted to finding the answer to the following question: Is the Turkish government really consistently performing its obligations assumed by law for war refugees?

Syrian migrants in Turkey have certain taxing privileges by law. They are also entitled to free medical aid and free education, but only very few migrants can benefit from these privileges.
“We are nine people and live in one room. The living conditions are horrible. We don’t have a bathtub or a separate bathroom. We have problems with registering our children at school. Other parents don’t want their children to see Syrian refugee children in their classrooms, and the principals don’t want to have any problems with the others.

The children don’t know Turkish well, and that’s also a problem. There haven’t been any language lessons organized for them.

We really need food and winter clothes. We came here for three months, but it turned into three years. If only we returned someday…”

This was only one of the Syrian refugees we met in Turkey. In reality, most of the Syrian refugees in Turkey live in such dire conditions.

Most of the Syrian refugees moving to Turkey have initially come here with the idea to return to the homeland after a short while, and some to leave for Europe later. Most of the refugees are from Aleppo, Qamishli and Rubane, thought it is safe to say that there migrants from almost all parts of Syria.

Most of them live in the Turkish states of Hatay, Adana Gaziantep, Shanliurfa, Mardin, Malatya, Adiyaman, Shirnak, Batman and Elyazig, meaning the refugees often haven’t gone too far from the border, with the purpose of returning to Syria, if possible. However, other refugees have settled in larger cities like Konyay, Ankara, Antalia, Izmir, and of course, Istanbul. Based on official statistics, there are 400,000 Syrian refugees living in Istanbul. However, this is only according to official data. These refugees moving towards the west of Turkey and having taken shelter in harbor cities are mainly the ones seeking opportunities to emigrate to Europe, as well as the relatively financially secure layer of Syrian migrants, who start their small and medium businesses in big cities.

As far as the refugees’ ethnic belonging is concerned, they are mostly Arabs and Kurds, who mainly follow the Sunni branch of Islam, though there are also many Shiite-Alevi Arabs. There are also Yezidis, Armenian and Assyrian Christians among the migrants.

The number of Armenians having migrated from Syria and Iraq to Turkey is quite comparably modest and doesn’t exceed 10,000 across the nation. Some of them live in Istanbul, Hatay, as well as in the territory of Western Armenia (Yozgat, Erzerum, Urfa, Mardin, etc.). The latter have found themselves in a not too favorable environment, to say the least, and they have to hide their national belonging and religious affiliation. It’s needless to talk about education and employment. The Armenian migrants having reached Istanbul are in a more or less favorable condition. They received some support from the Armenians of Istanbul through the local Armenian Church. Many managed to register their children at schools within the Armenian community, though some of the children have the status of a guest student and don’t receive a relevant certificate from the school to continue their future education at a university. The Armenian migrants having found themselves in Istanbul and in Western Armenia have come to Turkey with the purpose of moving to Europe or the USA.

Getting back to the common issues facing Syrian migrants in Turkey, let us mention that though some of them have managed to find jobs and have even found the paths to take to start their own businesses, the number of people in extreme poverty and those in special need of care from the government prevails.

According to a study by the International Refugee Rights Association (https://multecihaklari.org.tr/turkiyede-bulunan-suriyeli-multecilere-dair-istatistikler/), 63.3% of Syrian migrants having taken shelter in Turkey live in rented homes, 21.5% live in empty houses and houses in ruins, 10.3% live in tents, and the rest live in parks, on the streets, etc.

Nearly 36.7% are in need of medical aid, and 31.7% are in need of medicine.

According to 39% of patients, state hospitals don’t provide them with the free drugs that they have to receive. Out of the refugees, 38.3% say the conditions of their dwellings are very bad, and 9.3% say they are in constant fear that they might be thrown out of their temporary dwellings at any moment.

Out of the Syrian refugees, 21% is in hunger in Turkey, and 46% almost always have difficulties with finding food. The facts also show that most Syrian children can’t receive an education in Turkey due to social problems and problems with language and integration. Perhaps it should be mentioned that often, even if possible, the children of families with financial difficulties can’t go to school because they are forced to work.
The working conditions for Syrians in Turkey are a separate and quite intricate issue.

A large part of Syrian migrants in Turkey are exploited by several employers in private factories, at stores, and of course, at bridal salons and in the “begging business”.
Indeed, it would be wrong to claim that everyone is a victim in the last two sectors and that they have found themselves in those “businesses” whether they wanted to or not.

However, we must talk about the minor Syrian migrants working for 12 hours and earning 100 dollars in Istanbul and the ladies and women selling their bodies on the Turkish-Syrian border. Their exploiters are not illegitimate organizations and pay quite a lot of taxes to the government.

Every Syrian citizen with a passport is granted the permission to reside in Turkey for a year and may apply for the right to employment. However, there are also many refugees without any document, but according to several proofs, in spite of all that, they cross the Turkish-Syrian border without great difficulties.

These illegal refugees are the most vulnerable group and are the ones who are most exploited in different fields.

Migrant adolescents and young migrants earn a living by working at textile factories where their salaries make up an average of 100-200,000 dollars (when local employees earn 350 to 500 dollars to perform the same job). Syrian minors in big Turkish cities very often work as janitors, truck loaders and mobile sellers very often. There are also many cases of physical assaults on the part of Turkish businessmen and average citizens against the Syrians. Unfortunately, the main occupation for these refugees is begging. They live in the eastern sector of Turkey where the standard of living of the population is five times lower than the average standard of Turkey and where there aren’t many jobs.

While the leaders in the business of prostitution and begging gain big profits from the inflow of Syrian refugees in Turkey, average citizens complain more and more each day. They complain not only about the increase in the number of beggars and cases of theft, but also the sharp rise of prices of homes, the reduction of jobs and more (naturally, many employers have to prefer cheap labor and give preference to the Syrian refugees who can simply be paid coins.

Most citizens of Turkey say Turkey wasn’t ready to provide so many migrants with shelter and feed them. Sometimes the tension against Syrian refugees reaches its climax within Turkish society. However, it seems as though the Turks screaming “I don’t want to see Syrian refugees in my country” have chosen the wrong address to express their complaint since it seems as though the Turkish government doesn’t intend to close the Turkish-Syrian border, and the Europeans having “imprisoned” migrants in Turkey in exchange of billions have acted in accordance to a Turkish saying, “Kuzuyu kurtlara emanet etmek” (Keep the lamb for the wolves).

Hayernaysor.am

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