Unregistered refugees in turkey: pressure is growing

Resentment among the Turkish population against refugees is growing, especially in Istanbul. The country needs a concept on immigration.

Turkey urgently needs to get used to its role as a country of immigration Photo: dpa

In Turkey, the pressure on refugees is growing. In Istanbul in particular, the state is stepping up its search for illegal immigrants – and wants to move refugees not registered in the city to other provinces.

In the last two weeks alone, some 6,000 undocumented people have been detained in Istanbul and deported or taken to camps in other provinces, including nearly 3,000 Afghans who were deported across the border to Iran. Syrians without valid papers were reportedly taken to a camp in Hatay province.

Following an order by the responsible governor, all Syrian refugees who are not registered in Istanbul must now leave the city by August 20. A total of 547,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Istanbul. In fact, however, around 300,000 more are said to have settled in the city who are actually registered elsewhere.

The background to these measures is likely to be that resentment toward refugees is growing noticeably among the Turkish population, also in view of the economic crisis in the country. In surveys conducted in recent months, the nearly four million refugees are increasingly being described as the country’s biggest problem.

Growing resentment

Since the civil war in Syria began in 2012, Turkey has taken in nearly four million people who have fled the country – and who are referred to as "guests" by the Turkish government.

In the meantime, however, it has become clear that even after the end of the fighting in the neighboring country, the majority of these people will not return because their livelihoods have been destroyed in Syria, their children go to school in Turkey, medical care is available there and most of them have also found work, even if it is poorly paid.

Especially in the centers where a large number of refugees have landed – Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Hatay province, in addition to Istanbul – there is increasing resentment, which leads to verbal and sometimes physical attacks.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has justified the measures now announced for Istanbul and rejected criticism that Syrians are being deported to war zones in violation of international conventions. "No Syrian," Soylu said, "will be sent back against his will."

However, Turkey supports Syrians willing to return and tries to make it palatable for them to settle in Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

No government concept

Newspapers close to the government have already preemptively pointed out to possible critics from the EU that Turkey has so far taken in far more refugees than the entire EU put together. Despite isolated outbursts, the opposition has so far also avoided exploiting the refugee issue.

However, critical questions to the government are becoming more urgent, because President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government also show no sign of a concept of how they intend to deal with the refugees in the long term.

Turkey, which has so far been more of a transit country or even a country of emigration, must prepare itself with far-reaching integration measures to be able to exist as a country of immigration. There are studies on this, but as yet there are hardly any concrete approaches.

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