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Which Migrants Stay in Turkey, and Which Leave?

  • Ayesha Tanzeem

Like many of his fellow migrants, Sami el Imad left Syria because of the war. Unlike many others, he wants to stay in Turkey. He likes the familiarity.

“It’s still a little bit like, the same as our culture. It’s not that different," he said. "I didn’t want to have that much of a change.”

Once in Turkey, Imad saw an opportunity to expand his family business. His father owns a fast-food restaurant in Syria. He opened a similar one in Istanbul. His sister later joined him.

Other migrants have indicated that they would like to stay in Turkey as well, but are unable to make a living.

Imad agreed that his new home country is expensive. He also acknowledged that he would not have survived in Turkey if his family did not have money.

Low-wage jobs — "either waiter or stuff like that" — are the only ones available to most migrants, he said. "You are going to stay in the same place all the time — no change.”

Some migrants, like Imad, have successfully started new lives in Turkey. New Syrian businesses are popping up in various parts of Istanbul and other Turkish cities. But many who are leaving Turkey and setting off on the often dangerous journey to other parts of Europe say they were struggling to survive.

The migrants who have been able to make a life for themselves in Turkey are those who either had money to invest, were highly qualified, or could speak Turkish or English fluently. The rest are still looking toward Europe.

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