Refugees hit first in Turkey during COVID-19, the Economist says

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 coronavirus will hit the millions of migrants and refugees living in Turkey first and it will hit them hardest, the Economist said.

The International Monetary Fund expects that Turkey’s economy will contract by 5 percent this year, leading to a second recession in as many years. Exports in March were down by 18 percent year-on-year, tourism is likely to take a huge hit this summer, and the central bank has nearly run out of foreign reserves having spent them on propping up the sliding Turkish lira, the Economist said.

In this dire economic state, migrants and refugees are most vulnerable and many have already been sacked. The Economist detailed the case of Maysarah, an Egyptian who worked at a dried fruit stall in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, who said his bosses had fired him and dozens of other migrants when the bazaar closed in March. 

Many refugees and migrants work informally, which makes them ineligible for financial support or unemployment benefits. This includes the vast majority of the nearly 4 million Syrians in Turkey, around 70 percent of whom are poor or are on the verge of poverty, according to the Economist. 

“They were hired for being the cheapest labour and they will be the most disposable ones,” Omar Kadkoy, a researcher at TEPAV, a think-tank in Ankara, told the Economist.