Turkey needs to come to terms with a permanent Syrian population – expert

After seven years of refugees flowing into the country, the Turkish population is becoming aware that the Syrians are in the country to stay, but the two societies have not yet found a way to live together, an expert said.

Murat Erdoğan, the chair of the migration and integration centre at the Turkish German University (TAU) in Istanbul was quoted by secularist Sözcü newspaper, saying that only 15 percent of the Turkish population express a willingness to live in the same city as Syrians. The remainder prefer refugee camps, or separate cities for Syrian refugee population in Turkey.

Before the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the number of refugees in Turkey was 58,000, but it has now reached more than 4 million, Erdoğan said.

The Turkish administration and the Turkish population lost the first couple of years betting that the refugees will return to their countries one day, Erdoğan said.

“We still do not have proper plan for the Syrians in Turkey. The first question must be: what will happen with the Syrians?”

The answer has already been given: they are in Turkey to stay, he said. But the question of how to integrate them in education, health, housing and how to help them find ways to participate in the labour market, and Turkish society in general, remains.

The biggest problem remains with the Syrian refugee children in Turkey who have been exploited as child labour, Erdoğan said.

“There is a ‘lost generation’ of Syrian youth who were the direct victims of the war in Syria, and they could not experience a childhood in Turkey,” said Erdoğan. Their rage is piling up.

“If the Turkish people are expecting that the Syrians will remain grateful to Turkey till death, unfortunately, this will not be the case.”