Turkey must step up efforts to integrate Syrian refugees - report
Seventy percent of Turkey’s 3.5 million Syrian refugee population is likely to stay, pushing their integration to the fore of the country’s agenda, said a new report by the U.S.-based Atlantic Council think tank.
The report entitled "Toward Long-Term Solidarity with Syrian Refugees? Turkey’s Policy Response and Challenges’’ stressed that Turkey’s highly-praised refugee policy, put in place in 2014 and 2015, had been dismantled through the sidelining of camps, the closing of the border, limitations on freedom of movement for Syrians, early returns, possible push backs and demographic engineering.
Turkey has spent £31 billion for refugees in the last seven years, but needs a new sense of direction in its refugee policy as it tackles new political, regional and financial problems, the report said.
The report stressed the lack of access to work, healthcare and education among the leading challenges facing Syrians in Turkey.
"Syrian refugees are entitled to apply for a work permit following a regulation passed in January 2016. In 2018, the number of work permits granted to Syrians under temporary protection is around 25,000. This represents a very small fraction of the more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees between the age of 19 and 64 who are part of the labour force in Turkey,” the report said.
The report said Turkish authorities had to meet the new challenge of providing a sustainable livelihood for refugees living outside the camps on their own means.
It called on Ankara to develop a more deliberate and operational strategy to address the present and future needs of Syrians and the host community, reassess the value of limiting Syrians’ mobility in the country and further facilitate Syrians’ financial autonomy.
Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Volkan Bozkır last month said the country does not have the capacity to accommodate any more than the 3.5 million refugees it currently hosts.
In a study last year, 76 percent of the Turkish respondents said no Syrians should be given Turkish citizenship. It also showed that 75 percent of those polled do not agree with the statement “we can live in peace with Syrians”, and more than 50 percent find words such as lazy, rude, filthy, dangerous, untrustworthy, and bad as accurately describing Syrian refugees.