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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs