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

Asian Stocks Plunge on Weak Factory Activity

Official survey finds China’s manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace in three years More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs