Syrians are leaving their country, primarily, to escape violence, poverty, and lack of access to basic services because of the ongoing war in Syria since 2011. More than 4.5 million Syrian have now sought asylum in neighbouring countries, but perhaps more significantly, more than 7 million people are internally displaced within Syria.
Turkey shares the longest land border with Syria, which is around 800 kilometres, so one of the main reasons is the fact of geographical proximity. So Syrians come to Turkey because it is easier to reach Turkey. But also, cultural ties, family ties, religious and historical ties play an important role. Especially in border towns, you can see many Syrian families having extended relatives, family living on the Turkish side, so this also played an important role. And also, another important factor is Turkey’s open-border policy. From the start of the conflict, Turkey accepted refugees from Syria and kept its borders open for most of the time.
And now, the country is hosting more than half of the refugees in total, around 2.5 million refugees are now– Syrian refugees are now registered in Turkey. [CHIMES]
OK. So in times of conflict, Turkey, sometimes, accepted 10,000 refugees in a day. But the situation is now changing, especially since last year. Turkey is now implementing a more strict border-control policy due to security concerns. But crossings still continue. But most of the official border-crossing points are now closed, except for those who have very urgent health needs. But there is still unofficial border-crossing points, where Syrians continue to enter Turkey through the help of migrants’ smugglers. [CHIMES] What is their legal status in Turkey?
In the beginning, Syrians did not have a legal status because Turkey applies geographic limitation to 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, which means that Turkey only grants legal refugee status to those coming from Europe, European countries. But, with the increasing number, the increasing flow of refugees from Syria, Turkey started providing temporary protection status, which initially guaranteed unlimited stay in Turkey, protection against forced return, and access to resettlement arrangements. And this status has developed over the years, and now there’s the regulation providing a legal framework for Syrians currently residing in Turkey. So they have access to social services, including education and medical care, humanitarian and financial assistance, interpretation services, and access to the labour market.
But in order to have these rights, Syrian refugees need to register with the Turkish authorities. [CHIMES]
So maybe I should also clarify, as I said, there are more than 2.5 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. A small percent, around 10%, currently live in refugee camps managed by the Turkish government– from health services to education services and financial assistance each month is provided by the Turkish government. But most of the Syrians live outside the camps, where they have to find a job in order to make a living in Turkey. And until recently, this had been the main problem because they did not have official work permits to access the labour market. So most of the Syrians were actually working irregularly. But just last week, the Turkish government passed a new legislation allowing access to the labour market.
So this will be much more organised and regularised now. But until now, most Syrians, even with professions, had very much– faced big problems in accessing labour markets and doing their profession.