Nearly two million migrants, mostly Syrians running from war and conflict, have taken refuge in Turkey. While the country has, for the most part, welcomed and taken care of them, resentment against the newcomers is rising among some segments of the local population.
Melek Üzüm moved into this two-bedroom apartment when her son was one year old. Now that her three children are older, the space feels too small. She wants to move to a bigger place but cannot afford it. The influx of Syrian migrants has driven the rents in her neighborhood higher.
“There’s an apartment across the street for 800 liras [US$260]," she said. "There’s a basement right here they are renting for 600 liras [US$200]. They’ve driven the rent up so we can no longer afford it.”
Her landlady, who has stopped by, is eager to chime in. She has her own grief with Syrians.
“Syrians are getting good money from our government but not locals. My mother is very poor. She’s old. She gets very little money from the government,” she said.
She says she will never rent her apartment to a Syrian because many families move in together and, she says, would destroy it.
The landlady’s daughter describes how it bothers her that Syrian beggars touch her when they ask for money.
Impact on wages
In another Istanbul neighborhood, a newlywed couple is getting ready to welcome guests. The husband works in the textile industry. He complains about Syrians driving wages down.
“After the Syrians came, income for the locals declined, and life became expensive. The rent of 500 [US$165] became 1000 [US$330],” he said.
Such feelings of resentment against Syrians are rising among low-income Turks, particularly in Istanbul.
Turkey has seen a huge influx of migrants over the last four years and low-income housing, and low-paying jobs, have faced the biggest impact.
The grievances are so far limited. But if Syrian migrants continue to arrive in Turkey in larger numbers, the tension among locals and their new foreign neighbors may very well increase.