Skip main navigation

Syrian refugees in Turkey

What are the facts behind the Syrian refugee crisis from the perspective of the transit ad destination country Turkey?
What policies did Turkey place regarding these arrivals? Yeah, OK. In the initial stage, until the 2014 and ‘15, Turkey proceeded on a humanitarian policy and also to open door policy towards the Syrians fleeing from the war. What it means? It means that Turkey didn’t put the border– strict border regulations, unlike its previous practices. Once in 1991, when the Iraqi Kurds are trying to enter to Turkey when they are fleeing from Saddam, Turkey closed the borders and didn’t accept any Kurdish Iraqis at that time. But during the Syrian crisis, Turkey opened a very relaxed border policy and welcomed the Syrians who are fleeing from the war.
And went on to provide them food, water, and, all the necessary immediate humanitarian and other needs. And also allowed them to soft settle. It means that it required the Syrians to stay in the camps, and although it’s opened some camps, refugee camps in the border regions. But Syrians are allowed to go to or settle down to the cities if they find a new house or if they find their relatives over there. And it’s made a kind of another very large urban refugee population. And also, Turkey registered the Syrians and provided them access to free health and education. And these are kind of the very initial policies of the Turkey. And Turkey used its own resources in the first years.
It didn’t ask for international support considering that it will– it will handle– it would handle this crisis. But after 2014, it happened that it is not possible because numbers are very high, and the situation is continuing longer than expected of the politicians. Yeah, this was the initial policies. And after 2014 and ‘15, also considering that there is this emergency in Syria and the conflicts became more brutal. And the numbers became higher because in 2015, the numbers is already reached to 3 million. Wow. And making to some policies [INAUDIBLE] after 2015 and the closure of the borders. What was the legal status of Syrian refugees in Turkey at the moment? You kind of touched upon it.
But effectively, how much has it changed from the beginning to now? OK. Yeah, very a good question. Actually, the Syrian refugees in Turkey are not called refugees officially. For a long time, they have only called as guests because considering that they would go back. And also they called as our Syrian brothers and sisters in the political discourse to kind of give a– making it a more, let’s say, welcoming approach. In addition to that, Turkey is a very strange national asylum regime. It is a signatory of the Refugee Convention of 1951 and it has additional protocol, but Turkey has a geographical limitation over the convention, meaning that it doesn’t recognize non-European refugees as refugees. Oh. Is very strange.
And Iraqis, Afghans, or the Syrians or Iranians are not consider– or not labeled or formally labeled as a refugee in Turkey because of Turkey’s refugee regime. It’s kind of very strange. And the Syrians are put under this very special status called temporary protection status. This temporary protection status is very similar to the refugee status, but have differences. It means that the Syrians are given to the– access to the health, education, social assistance, and working permits. Working permits in 2016, it means that Syrians can officially work in Turkey. But the issue is that Syrians are not given to the right to apply for resettlement to the [? chart ?] countries, unlike Iraqis or Afghans.
And also, they don’t have a right to the naturalization. It doesn’t mean that Syrians stay in Turkey for 10 years, and they will automatically access to the naturalization and the citizenship. There is some conditions for citizenship. It’s very selective. But this temporary protection doesn’t guarantee access to the naturalization or access to the resettlement to the [? chart ?] countries. This is quite unique situation. And also, the temporary protection has this risk that this temporary protection decision is given by the presidency. At any point, the political authority can decide that there is no need for temporary protection. This is precarious in this sense. Yeah. How has the overall situation changed over the past years? And by overall– OK.
–situation, of course, like in addition to the conditions, also for example, the situation in the area for geopolitics. And then Turkey’s willingness to support to the extent that it did? Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately, the protected status of the Syrians have some– let’s say brings some disadvantages. And the initial welcoming attitude of the Turkish community or communities, and also the Turkish politician, have been in decline in the last two, three years. And because it was worsened by the high inflation rate and high unemployment rate in Turkey. And after the pandemic, the situation became the reverse, because as in other contexts, the migrants are the easy scapegoats of all the inflation problems or unemployment or the rises in the housing market.
And the host committees are not really eager to see the Syrians anymore. And we see that the surveys showing that there is a desire of the Turkish public to return of the Syrians or to– let’s say to put the Syrians in a kind of the camps, or not in the urban areas. And there’s this tendency. And the government parties, kind of still a little welcoming to the Syrians. But we see in the last two elections, it is– Syrian policy is kind of backlashing because of the opposition parties are using this immigration crutch. And this is– we see the anti-discrimination against the Syrians, hate speech. Specifically, through the social media. And exploitation in the job market.
And these kind of raising to the concerns. But at the same time, from the Syrian side, we see that they are more integrating. And so they learn the language, they’ve gotten used to [INAUDIBLE]. And also many Syrian children was born in Turkey. They have never been in– it’s the 10th year. And the kids who come in, they are– right now, they’re in the primary school and they have never been in Syria. They are– they feel integrated, and they show this aspiration to return and also to secure– the situation in Syria is not enabling to the safe and dignified return.
But from the Turkish, the host community perspective, the Syrians’ protected state is not that much about camps, unlike to the previous years– I mean initial years.

What are the facts behind the Syrian refugee crisis from the perspective of the transit and destination country of Turkey? Tackling this and more questions with researcher Zeynep Sahin Mencutek, PhD.

This article is from the free online

Why Do People Migrate? Facts

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now