News / Middle East

Turkey Feeling Strain From Hosting Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee children scuffle with a waiter as they try to get a pack of food at an iftar (breaking fast) event open to public during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in central Istanbul, July 17, 2014.
Syrian refugee children scuffle with a waiter as they try to get a pack of food at an iftar (breaking fast) event open to public during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in central Istanbul, July 17, 2014.
Dorian Jones

Turkey has maintained an open door policy for people fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria, but recent violent protests in several cities indicate many Turks are feeling the strain from harboring the one million refugees. Authorities say they may soon force the tens of thousands of Syrians living on the streets into camps.

Last week hundreds of Turks marched through the provincial city of Maras, shouting, "We do not want Syrians." One man addressing the angry crowd, voices his frustration.

He says he has worked hard all his life, paid taxes and Syrians who have given nothing get more from the state than he does. He says the Syrians are foreigners and treated better than Turks.

The protest soon turned violent. Similar protests have exploded in several other cities with large Syrian refugee populations.  

Turkish analyst Sinan Ulgen, who heads the research organization Edam, says the protests send a powerful warning to the government.

"This is just the first signals that uncover the existing and growing social tension. So it is an alarm bell for the government to start think about, much more comprehensively, about the fate of Syrian refugees," he said.

"Today," added Ulgen, "there are more than 1.2 million refugees in Turkey and only 200,000 of them are in camps in southeast of Turkey. The rest are all over Turkey, in many cities including Istanbul, and they are faced with the fact that they cannot sustain anymore their livelihood economically."

Officially about 100,000 Syrians live in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, but local charities claim the number is likely double that.

In every quarter of the city, Syrian families can be found begging for money, most sleep in parks and mosques. But citing growing public concern, Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu has issued a stark warning, they could be forcibly sent to refugee camps.

Turkish authorities have spent billions of dollars constructing and supporting camps for Syrians. Observers point out the camps were built with the idea the Syrian conflict would end quickly, but with many Syrians spending years in them they are proving increasingly unpopular.

Abdullah and his wife and young family live on the Istanbul streets, surviving on charity collected by his two young children. But he says it is better than the camps.

He says they fled to Istanbul because they know other people who came here. He says life on the street is hard, but they lived for months in a camp and it was little better than a prison. He says on the street they are free and he has a chance to find work.

A few Syrians have found jobs in Istanbul’s large tourist sector, where speaking Arabic is useful. But for most a job remains a dream.

Analyst Ulgen warns Ankara must face up to the refugee reality and it needs help.

"Now it is clear that these people will not be going back to Syria anytime soon and therefore the government needs, with the collaboration of its partners in the West, to help them on a more long-term basis by providing the means for them to start to integrate in the Turkish labor market; organizing training, language courses," he said. "I do not see any other solution to this dilemma."

Ankara is pleading for help from its European neighbors, but there have been few offers, just praise of Turkey’s humanitarian efforts. Analysts say those words are proving cold comfort for a population, that is largely poor and increasingly asking how long will it have to shoulder the refugee burden.  

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid