Turkey’s economy, unemployment fuelling anger against Syrian refugees - Reuters

Turkey’s stumbling economy and rising unemployment has fuelled anger against the presence of Turkey’s Syrian refugees, and many are resented by Turks as cheap labour taking over jobs and using services, Reuters reported. 

Turkey is home to some 3.6 million registered refugees from Syria, according to the latest United Nations figures published in May. With their arrival following the 2011 outbreak of the civil war across the border, the topic of refugees has become a constant in Turkish news and daily life. 

Reuters pointed to an attack against a Syrian-owned clothing shop in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district, home to a large number of refugees, on Saturday as one example of the wave of anger against the group. 

“Don’t come, they want to kill you,” the grocer next door told the two Syrian shop owners whose store had been attacked. 

A small group of Turkish men broke their glass storefront, ripped up Arabic leaflets and signs and set them on fire.

Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the attackers in Küçükçekmece, however, they managed to destroy the district’s Syrian stores and tear down Arabic signs.

Following an investigation, police found messaging group with 58 members was responsible for inciting the clashes and 11 members have been detained as investigations continue.

As Syrians continue to open businesses and assert their presence, some Turks are becoming frustrated by what they perceive as a takeover.

The Istanbul governor’s office last week began an inspection of Arabic shop signs in Istanbul’s three districts in order to ensure conformity to the rule that 75 percent of signs should be in Turkish.

The inspection began after Ekrem İmamoğlu, the newly elected mayor of Istanbul, criticised the excessive Arabic signage in Turkey’s largest city.

The opposition mayor, who campaigned on a ticket of inclusiveness, is now making a case for seeing Syrian migrants back to their homelands.

“Otherwise, we will have some security concerns that would really trouble us all, and there would be street clashes,” İmamoğlu has said. 

The increasing displeasure with Syrian refugees has lead the government of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, to increasingly highlight the number of Syrians it says have returned to northern Syrian areas now controlled by Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies, Reuters said.

According to state-owned Anadolu Agency , 80,000 Syrians returned in the first half of 2019. 

A 2017 survey revealed that 79 percent of Turks hold an unfavourable view of the Syrian refugees, making them among the least popular groups in Turkey. 

“We are staying, we can’t give up or anything,” one Syrian shop owner whose store was looted told Reuters. “We can’t close up, how would we live?”