Survey: Young Syrians plagued by social and economic discrimination in Turkey

A Syrian woman hugs a boy on a bus as Syrian refugees returning voluntary to Syria prepare to leave on August 6,2019 in Esenyurt district in Istanbul. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Survey: Young Syrians plagued by social and economic discrimination in Turkey

  • Half of those surveyed by the university said they wanted to return home, or move away from Turkey, because of their living conditions and the discrimination they face

ANKARA: On Friday, Bahcesehir University’s Center of Migration and Urban Studies in Istanbul released a report highlighting the longstanding socio-economic challenges Syrian refugees face in Turkey.

As in many countries with large refugee populations, there has been ongoing tension between residents and immigrants for years, and life is increasingly difficult for the refugees. In Hatay, which hosts around 439,000 Syrians — around a third of the city’s total population — already-scarce resources are often stretched to breaking point, resulting in further ill feeling towards the refugees.

The university’s report includes a survey of 808 Syrians aged 18-25 in two Turkish cities with large numbers of Syrian refugees — Hatay and Izmir, on the Aegean coast, which is home to around 146,000 Syrians — in October and November last year.

According to official figures there are around 1.2 million Syrian refugees between the ages of 18 and 25 currently living in Turkey — a third of the country’s total population of Syrian refugees.

Half of those surveyed by the university said they wanted to return home, or move away from Turkey, because of their living conditions and the discrimination they face. However, the university noted, most of those who said they wanted to leave were in the low-income bracket.

Omar Kadkoy, a migration policy analyst at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, said the report highlights the structural shortcomings of Turkey’s “harmonization policy.”

“Bureaucracy is marginalizing skilled Syrians and preventing them from fulfilling their potential, hence depriving Turkey of needed, but underutilized, capabilities,” he told Arab News.

According to the survey, 45 percent of Syrian youth in Turkey neither work nor go to school. As 86.6 percent cannot get a certificate of equivalence for their diploma, they cannot attend university or apply for certain jobs for which they may be qualified.


There are around 1.2 million Syrian refugees between the ages of 18 and 25 currently living in Turkey.

Only 4.6 percent of those surveyed held a Turkish work permit, so most work in the ‘informal sector,’ without any social insurance, and are often exploited by their employers. Respondents cited the lengthy bureaucratic procedures involved in applying for a work permit as the main reason for staying in the informal sector.

According to Kadkoy, that same bureaucracy is exposing young Syrians to greater risks, especially in the age of COVID-19.

“Under normal circumstances, working informally already means being subject to various forms of exploitation. During the pandemic, working informally turns Syrians into a disposable workforce with only a fragile financial safety net to survive the economic consequences of COVID-19,” he said.

Young Syrians are mainly employed in the textile, construction and catering sectors in Turkey. According to the survey, 78.8 percent do not receive their full salary each month. One fifth of respondents complained about low wages, while 16 percent said their working conditions were unsuitable.

About half of young Syrians reportedly work 9-10 hours per day, with one third working for at least 11 hours — which is against Turkey’s employment rules. Half the respondents claimed they could not access public services or rent a house because of their nationality.

At least three-quarters of young Syrians live below Turkey’s official minimum subsistence level, while only four percent receive financial support from the state.

One third of respondents said they have faced xenophobia and racism, while one fifth cited the language barrier as a major obstacle for their integration into Turkish society. Eleven percent of the respondents said their contact with the local community was at a “very bad level.”

According to Kadkoy, the fact that so many young Syrians are having a difficult time in Turkey and wish to leave will serve the government in two ways.

“Domestically, (the government) will complicate the lives of Syrians through bureaucracy. Thus, frustrated Syrians will opt for voluntary repatriation in the future. Therefore, the government delivers its promise not to host Syrians indefinitely,” he said. “Regionally, the government will exert pressure on Brussels for further financial support (in exchange for) keeping Syrians from reaching EU borders.”


Tensions between Turkey, France pose threat to NATO alliance, warn experts

Updated 07 July 2020

Tensions between Turkey, France pose threat to NATO alliance, warn experts

  • Turkey ‘challenging’ international norms by breaking arms embargo on Libya, invading northern Syria, claims analyst

JEDDAH: Increasing tensions between France and Turkey were posing a threat to the cohesion of the NATO alliance, experts have warned.

Paris’ recent decision to suspend its involvement in the NATO Sea Guardian maritime security operation in the eastern Mediterranean following an incident between a French frigate and Turkish vessels, has highlighted the organization’s difficulties in maintaining order and harmony among its members.

Months of escalating dispute between France and Turkey came to a head on June 10, when Paris claimed that its La Fayette-class Frigate Courbet was targeted three times by Turkish Navy fire control radars while it was trying to approach a Tanzanian-flagged civilian cargo ship suspected of trafficking arms to Libya.

The cargo ship was under the escort of three Turkish vessels, but Ankara denied harassing the Courbet and demanded an apology from France for disclosing “improper information,” saying the ship in question had been carrying humanitarian aid.

The incident resulted in France pulling out of the NATO operation, partly aimed at enforcing a UN embargo on arms supplies to Libya, and accusing Turkey of importing extremists to Syria.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “I think that it’s a historic and criminal responsibility for a country that claims to be a member of NATO. We have the right to expect more from Turkey than from Russia, given that it is a member of NATO.”

The classified report on the Courbet incident is expected to be discussed soon by member states of the alliance.

Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system has also angered some NATO members over concerns it could undermine Western defense systems and led to Turkey’s expulsion from the alliance’s F-35 stealth fighter jet program.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, told Arab News: “NATO faces increasing challenges from its member state Turkey which behaves contrary to NATO’s mission and values.

“Turkey’s government has begun to violate international norms by breaking an arms embargo on the Libyan conflict and invading northern Syria, backing extremist groups, and bombing northern Iraq.

“Ankara has tried to strong-arm NATO into supporting it through threats to hold up a Baltic defense plan and also through threatening and insulting other NATO members.

“Turkey insinuated to the US that Turkey would brush US forces aside in Syria in 2019 if the US didn’t leave, it has escalated conflicts rather than reducing them, and threatened to send refugees to Greece while staking counter claims to the Mediterranean against Greek claims,” he added.

Frantzman pointed out that the controversy with France was a byproduct of this.

“NATO increasingly looks like it is being called upon to appease Ankara’s monthly crises that involve new military operations in several countries. Once a key and helpful ally of NATO, Turkey looks increasingly like it seeks to exploit its NATO membership, using it as a cover for military operations that undermine human rights, democracy, and international norms,” he said.

Turkey is seen as an important and strategic member of the military alliance. On its website, NATO says that all the organization’s decisions are made by consensus, following discussions and consultations among members. “When a ‘NATO decision’ is announced, it is therefore the expression of the collective will of all the sovereign states that are members of the alliance.”

However, recent disagreements within NATO led Macron to say that the alliance was “suffering brain death” over Turkey’s cross-border military offensive into northern Syria last year.

On Turkey’s unilateral behavior, Frantzman said: “This is part of a global rising authoritarian agenda but appears to be counter to the NATO mission that once ostensibly was about defending Western democracies from the Soviet totalitarian threat.

“This calls into question the overall NATO mission and whether NATO is now enabling Ankara’s authoritarian trend. NATO countries are generally afraid to challenge Turkey, thinking that without Turkey and with a US disinterested in global commitments, NATO would become a European club with an unclear future. For Russia that is good news as it supplies S-400 systems to Turkey, further eroding NATO,” he added.

Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, felt NATO would be able to manage the spat between France and Turkey.

“Libya isn’t really a NATO issue. It is out of the area for the alliance. I see this more as a bilateral dispute between two rival powers in the Mediterranean.

“What I worry more about is how NATO members, including both Turkey and France, are letting these bilateral squabbles seep into the North Atlantic Council. They should keep their fights to themselves.”