Accessibility links

Breaking News

Minister: Turkey to Introduce Work Permits for Syrian Refugees

FILE - Syrian refugees prepare to board a bus for Istanbul, abandoning plans to cross to Europe near Turkey’s western border with Greece and Bulgaria, in Edirne, Turkey, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

Turkey will offer Syrian refugees work permits in order to encourage fewer of them to migrate, the country's minister for European Affairs said Monday.

Volkan Bozkir said more than 150,000 people were caught migrating illegally in 2015. Authorities stopped about 500 a day.

Bozkir spoke after meeting European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who last week said the European Union was far from satisfied with Turkey's efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece.

"We are trying to reduce the pressure for illegal migration by giving Syrians in Turkey work permits," Bozkir told reporters in Ankara.

This idea has been floated by the Turkish government but many people remain hostile to the measure on the grounds it could take away jobs from qualified Turks.

Turkey is the world's biggest host of refugees amid the greatest global movement of refugees since World War II. More than 2.2 million Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey from the civil war, now in its sixth year. Another 200,000 Iraqi refugees also shelter there, and migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and Africa all use Turkey as a transit point to Europe.

Turkey struck a deal with the EU in November to prevent migrants from travelling to Europe in return for $3.3 billion in cash, a deal on visas and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.