Granting citizenship an option for long-term refugees, says Turkish report

A new ombudsman’s report has revealed the new information on Turkey’s Syrian population, highlighting the impact of millions of refugees on the country’s demographics and shedding lights on the challenges and contributions they bring to the country.

With 3.5 million refugees taking shelter within its borders, Turkey is host to more refugees than any other country, the vast majority of them having fled the Syrian conflict, a Turkish ombudsman’s report has stated.

More than 4.3 million Syrian refugees have made a home in Turkey, and over 92 percent of these live in cities across the country, the latest volume of the ombudsman’s Special Report on Syrians in Turkey revealed. The remaining 7.45 percent live in refugee camps, with 235,365 refugees in these camps having their needs met in full by the Turkish state.

Approximately 45 percent of the Syrians – over 1.4 million people – are under 18 years of age. The report estimates that, with new refugees incoming from across the border combined with new births, the number of Syrians in Turkey could rise to between 4 million and 5 million in the next 10 years.

Around 1.9 million of the Syrians are of working age, defined in the report as between 15 and 65 years old. At least 500,000 of the urban refugees have reportedly been working in Turkey. The low-wage work available to the majority of these often makes it necessary for several members of a family to work to provide for the rest.

On the other hand, the Economy Ministry foundin 2017 that 6,528 companies owned by Syrians were active in Turkey, with 3,499 of them operating in the commercial sector.

The report stressed that a great many of the Syrians living in Turkey experienced problems due to language differences, and highlighted the need for qualified and professional translation services. It added that internet sites for state websites dealing with bureaucratic issues should be made available in Arabic.

It also stated that the Syrian crisis and the influx of refugees had brought unique security problems that increased the need for border controls on the borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, and made heightened alert for radicalisation terrorism threats a necessity.

In addition, the public perception that the refugees had increased these threats and cultural differences could lead to tensions between Turks and the newcomers. “It is possible that, even if 99 percent of Syrians completely harmonise, the mistakes made by the remaining one percent will be extended to them as a whole,” the report said.

It will be important to find a way to surmount this problem, since, according to the report, the majority of Syrians in Turkey will be unable to return to their home country in the short term.

“In this case it is inevitable that the topic of citizenship will come to the agenda,” it said.

The issue has already made waves in Turkey, where nationalist politicians have complained that Syrian refugees have received preferential treatment at the expense of Turks, and some opposition figures fear the ruling party could grant citizenship to boost its voter numbers.

The decision on granting citizenship will be made by the appropriate political authorities after the necessary risk assessments are made, the report said.

The report ends with damning words for Turkey’s European neighbours, most of which have stubbornly resisted taking in refugees.

“The world has around 22 million registered refugees, and not a single one of the six countries that have hosted the majority of these are in Europe. These six include poor countries like Ethiopia and Uganda,” report said.

“This shows that, more than a refugee crisis, the world faces a crisis of humanity and solidarity,” it added.