Turkey's Syrian refugees hard hit by pandemic - report

The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating effects on Turkey’s Syrian refugees, with many losing their low-paying, under-the-table jobs and unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Birgün newspaper reported on Monday. 

Syrian children are unable to access remote learning due to lack of Internet access at home, and the state has not reached out to help the marginalised community, the newspaper said, citing Syrian refugees in the western İzmir province.

Turkey is home to some 3.7 million Syrians, who began arriving in the country at the start of the civil war 10 years ago. Turkey does not officially recognize Syrians as refugees under international refugee law, but designates them as asylum seekers. The group has been placed under temporary protective status, which allows them to receive public services, including health care and education. 

“I was left unemployed after the pandemic,” one Syrian refugee, who works as a cleaner, told BirGün. “People naturally do not want people to clean their homes … I have been unemployed for about four-five months now. We have no income. We are in a bad state.”

Syrians need government-granted permits in order to work legally in the country, which drives most into the underground economy, leaving them open to exploitation.

Another Syrian refugee, who is bed-ridden, explains that he has yet to be vaccinated, despite being in a high-risk group.

“Both my wife and daughter are unemployed due to the pandemic,” he told BirGün. “They go for house cleaning from time to time. We have household expenditures in addition to my health expenditures, which, at times, we cannot meet.”

Another refugee explains that one of her children, who is in school, is unable to attend classes due to a lack of stationery items, like notebooks and pencils.

A local community centre has helped, but she does not know what will happen in the future.

“During remote learning, we would go to our neighbours who have access to the Internet for schooling,” she said, adding that now schools are open in İzmir, her child attends in-person classes twice a week.

“What we need is jobs, we must make money,”she said.