November 29, 2019

Syrian refugees are trying to integrate with the Turkish labour market
Nov 29, 2019

Syrian refugees are trying to integrate with the Turkish labour market.

Istanbul City in Turkey is currently hosting almost 600,000 Syrian refugees who are under temporary protection in this country, according to the data provided by Libor Chlad, Head of Section for the Facility of Refugees in Turkey, during a presentation that took place on November 14 with several journalists from EU member states, invited to Istanbul by the EU Delegation in Turkey. Starting with 2015, the European Union, together with its local partners, carried out a series of projects in various fields of activity, in Turkey, under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey - FRIT, such as education, healthcare and labour, socio-economic integration, meant to help the refugee community easier integrate into the Turkish society. The established amount was 6 billion euros, which money was divided into two tranches of 3 billion each and managed together with the relevant institutional partners in Turkey, certain UN organisations, NGOs or international financial institutions. The first tranche was already spent almost entirely, while for the second one the partners are still in the phase where they are trying to identify the relevant local partners to actually implement the projects. One of the problems facing the Turkish authorities in managing this very large wave of refugees that stormed the country in the past couple of years, which wave is also the target group and main beneficiary of the FRIT project, is that many refugees refuse to register officially in their new country, which means that they cannot benefit from the help designed for them. While part of them refuse to register because they are afraid of being sent back to Syria, where the conflict is still ongoing, in the context in which various Turkish politicians mentioned sending them back a couple of times in the recent years, the other part hopes to leave Turkey for Western European countries. Also, the fact that the refugees are forced to stay in the region where they first registered is another factor in their refusing to register, because they are not sure how long they will want to stay in the respective region. However, Ambassador Christian Berger, the Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, gave assurance, at a meeting he had with journalists from several EU member states on November 15, that no Syrian refugee will be sent home unless he/she wants it, because sending refugees back home against their will would mean to violate the UN principles according to which any such return should be voluntary, free and safe. But the projects developed by the EU and its partners are not exclusively addressed to refugees, they include the host communities too. Given the large number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul alone, it is clear that the city deals with a huge pressure, in the context in which Turkey is already struggling with an economic crisis and high unemployment figures, including because of the ongoing conflict in the neighboring country. Therefore, one of the measures taken under the FRIT was to grant certain amounts of money directly to the main beneficiaries of the project, nominally, on a cash card, so that they could spend the money on the local market, to buy food, pay for transport or cover other needs. In other words, once it became clear that the Syrian refugees were in Turkey to stay and not just temporarily, as it was initially believed, the authorities and their partners switched from giving them food, granting them medical assistance and providing them with other necessary products under the form of humanitarian aid, to giving them the cash cards so that they will contribute to the local economy instead. Another measure taken by the authorities and their EU partners, meant to improve and harmonize the relations between the locals and the newcomers, considering that the process of integration into a new society is difficult in any part of the world, for anyone, was to collaborate with the Turkish journalists, who are supposed to disseminate a series of accurate information and carefully explain in detail what is the situation. The newcomers have also a problem with the Turkish language that most of them do not know, which is another barrier in their need of communication with the members of the local communities, the authorities, the doctors, in certain cases, and in their need to find a job. A rather happy example is represented in this respect by the Syrian doctors who, after attending a course for a certain while, during which they are getting familiarized with the particularities of the Turkish healthcare system, they are hired to work in the migrant medical centres especially arranged for the Syrian refugees, where they do not need to know to speak Turkish language, as their clients are exclusively Syrians. However, these doctors have very small chances to get hired by a Turkish hospital, which means that most of them do not get to work according to their medical specialization, for the temporary centres only offer primary care. Some of them are cardiologists or surgeons who, in order to work in a hospital in Turkey, would first need to invest a lot of time and money that they do not have. One of the doctors from a migrant medical centre in Istanbul, who spoke with the journalists who participated in a press trip organised by the EU Delegation in Turkey in this city on November 14 and 15, said he was among the happier cases of Syrian doctors who get to work according to their specialization, as he was a gynecologist, but his wife, who used to be a dentist in Syria cannot practice her job in Turkey. Another problem the Syrian refugees in Turkey need to deal with is perfectly illustrated by the case of a woman met by the journalists at the headquarters of the Red Crescent in Turkey, on the occasion of the same press trip to Istanbul. The woman, who used to live in an area in Syria, Daria, which was strongly hit by the war, told the journalists that she was alone in Turkey, while her husband was in France, wherefrom he sent her money from time to time, a son was back in Syria, another son in the UK, where he had a newborn, another was in Germany, studying engineering, and the fourth in Greece. She did not get to see the one in Germany for 6 years and the one in UK for 4 years. In order to speak to the journalists she needed to talk to an Arabic-Turkish translator first, who talked in his turn with a Turkish-English translator. She was working in Turkey, making food for those who need it. From time to time she came to the community centre, the Red Crescent centre, where she took care of the little children, while their mothers were attending cooking, hairdressing or sewing classes. She said she did not necessarily want to return to Syria, for she had nothing to return to there. She only wanted to be with her family again, to see her children. But she was still grateful to be in Turkey, where she felt safe, at least. AGERPRES (RO - author: Cristina Zaharia, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN - author: Cristina Zaharia, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

[Read the article in Agerpres]

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