Turkey is hosting about 3 million Syrian refugees. Undoubtedly, as this number increases every single day, the duty of hosting all these refugees brings together an immense human and economic cost as well. Still, Turkey has gone the extra mile to ensure that refugee camps are comfortable and adequate. Furthermore with the “open-door policy” Turkey is carrying out, with great sacrifices despite the additional difficulties and challenges that pile up while providing all these services. The country is being praised greatly by the international community. Although Turkey endeavors selflessly – bearing in mind the magnitude of the problem, the efforts are still not enough to address all the issues.
While the life in the camps are easier for the refugees, those who had to live outside the camps may encounter very serious problems and Turkey is being criticized a lot in this regard. The fact is, many of those criticisms are not justifiable. For instance, although it is claimed that Turkey did not outline an extensive plan with regard to the refugees they are acknowledging that the refugees have been selflessly hosted in the country for five years, and are “here to stay.” Turkey has already embarked on developing new policies. Furthermore, important regulations have been made to integrate refugees into Turkish society.
As might be expected, these efforts come with a great cost and it is considerably difficult for Turkey to deal with such a cost by their own means. Given that the refugees in Istanbul alone, outnumber all of those hosted by all of Europe, thus it can be clearly seen that the international players should make financial and moral contributions to Turkey.
Avoiding agreements that “disdain humanitarian values”
These people, who were living a normal life in prosperity in Syria, now suffer miserably because of the war. On the top of it, the doors have been shut in their faces in some of the countries that they sought refuge in and they have been subjected to humiliating practices. Certainly, this does not befit the character of the European society who has for a long time attached the utmost importance to human rights. In fact, the criticisms on these issues have come shortly after Turkey and EU accepted the terms of the agreement in principle. The consecutive statements made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders and other human rights organizations, in short, implicate that the deal is one of the clearest examples of EU’s cynicism regarding human values.
Turkey, already hosting nearly 3 million refugees, is to readmit a total of 500 thousand illegal refugees, who entered the EU countries via Turkey, pursuant to the agreement. In return, Turkey will send the same number of refugees to Europe through legal means. What should be accentuated while making international agreements is not the interests of respective countries but the sanctity of life. This should be made the priority. These people in such a worn-out, exhausted and vulnerable state should be given humane treatment that they deserve.
Even if we assume that the war in Syria will end tomorrow morning, it will take years for the country to recover. For that reason, we should not regard the refugees, who have had to establish a new life for themselves in our country, as guests. They constitute a crowded population of young people… We should see them as a blessing from God and make them citizens of our country.
No one has the right to cause these precious and generous people who have endured all the challenges of war and being a refugee for five years suffer more. In this sense, extensive policies should be developed urgently to ensure that the precautions to provide comfort for our Syrian brothers inside and outside Turkey are taken without further delay. It should not take months or years, but rather minutes to overcome the relevant bureaucratic obstacles.
What could be done to facilitate the integration of Syrian refugees?
The difference of the facilities provided inside the camps and outside is very well known. Hence, a separate organization that will be responsible for the refugees outside the camps should be established urgently. How could this process be accelerated? During the refugees’ adaptation process to the country, the existence of such an organization serving as an agent providing rapid solutions is of great importance.
– Language should be a top priority within the adaptation process our refugee brothers are going through. Every Syrian refugee should be provided with basic language education.
– About 620 thousand Syrian children in Turkey are in need of education yet only half of them are able to receive it. The government and non-governmental organization should do their fair share of the work and provide education for every single child so that they do not become a lost generation. In this respect, the help of other states and philanthropists is necessary. New regulations on tax system should be created immediately, and if necessary incentives should be implemented.
– The laws in Turkey enable the reimbursement of the cost of the first and second-line health care for refugees. However, refugees are facing difficulties in receiving health services due to language barrier, for that reason, translators should be made available in healthcare centers.
– To make it possible for the refugees to build new lives in their new country as soon as possible, bureaucratic obstacles should be avoided and existing ones should be removed. For instance, currently the foreigners given temporary protection by the state can only apply for work permits after a 6 months – waiting period following the issuance of temporary identity documents. This bureaucratic delay should swiftly be removed completely or minimized.
– The number of vocational courses and technical courses should be increased. Of course, for Syrians who already have a profession and a work permit, employment opportunities should be offered. In this regard, new employment opportunities might be created with the investments that the U.S., the EU and Arabic countries might make. In this way, Syrian refugees will be able to stand on their own feet without being in need. Along with these, job opportunities primarily in fields such as farming, animal husbandry and agriculture should rapidly be provided for them.
Refugees are everyone’s responsibility
All of these solutions proposed until now, are actually issues that our government is currently working on; however, our wish is that these efforts are accelerated and that the international players follow through on their agreements, by providing financial and spiritual assistance. There should be international negotiations in this regard and the urgency of the issue should be put on the world’s agenda.
Bearing the magnitude of the liability that has occurred in our minds, it is evident that the aid that is planned to be allocated to Turkey under the Turkey-EU agreement would not be sufficient.
It is extremely necessary that, in addition to the use of every financial opportunity available, EU countries launch a cultural education campaign that would befit their long-established civilization. Such a campaign will accelerate the adaptation process of refugees coming from different cultural backgrounds and bring relief to all relevant societies. The responsibility befalling on every country is tremendous. All the countries of the world are responsible for the refugees and the definite solutions regarding this issue can only be produced and implemented through cooperation and unity in every regard.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Diplomacy Pakistan: