Panel 7A

Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Integration, Education and Employment

9.00 – 11.00
Chair: Mana Ece Tuna, TED University

Evaluation of the Status of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Tamas Dudlak Corvinus, University of Budapest

Turkey has been coping with the serious humanitarian consequences of the Syrian War since the summer of 2011 having now about 2.8 million Syrian refugees (“guests” as they are official called) registered in Turkey, many of them living there for years. Due to the long-standing conflict in Syria, most of the refugees settled down in Turkey and live not in camps but in major cities everywhere in the country. These “guests” living together with the local Turks do not possess asylum right; however, the Turkish government pursues policies of reception and accommodation based on the principles of “open doors” announced in 2011. This policy of acceptance is worth examining together with the public opinion of the majority towards, and their experience with the newcomers.  My presentation plans to deal also with the governmental and social initiatives aiming to help the Syrians in Turkey. I intend to show the overall picture of the status of Syrians in Turkey in order to see their prospects and shed light on the shortages of the Turkish social care system by giving an insight into the challenges in the everyday life of the Syrian migrants, in the fields of employment, education, health care, identity and radicalization. This research is based on English and Turkish literature, policy papers, international and local reports, publications of the Turkish press, interviews conducted by different organizations and also some personal experience during my visit last August in Ankara’s Syrian neighbourhood and the border town of Hatay (Antakya).

The Local Integration of Refugees in the Middle East:  Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Durukan Kuzu, Coventry University

This paper looks at the local integration of refugees in developing countries and its challenging consequences for the West by using the example of Syrian refugees in Turkey and the consequential migration surge to Europe. The paper will elaborate on this matter by questioning how the local dynamics in Turkey impacted on the course of Syrian Refuge crisis since 2011.  What is it that the Syrian refugees in Turkey cannot stand anymore so that they flee to Europe risking their lives in the process?  What makes Syrians so desperately want to leave Turkey- a country that has opened its borders and granted them free health services and permission to stay for unlimited duration? Why do Syrians want to escape from Turkey – a country that is relatively easy to integrate into, the society of which they have already had strong relationships with – to some of the European countries that do not even welcome them in the first place? This paper focuses on the situation of the urban refugees living outside the camps in Turkey. In doing so it aims to shed light on the problems of Syrians that ultimately lead them to seek asylum in European countries.

Turkey’s Policy on Education of Syrian Children

Mana Ece Tuna TED University and Elif Karsli TED University

An important but understudied dimension of movement and migration in the Middle East is the education of Syrian refugee children. This paper attempts to shed light on how a middle-income host country such as Turkey has tackled this problem. There are currently 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1 million of which are school-aged children. The Turkish state has attempted to deal with this challenge by employing a range of policies such as establishing and/or supporting “temporary education centres” and inclusion of Syrian children in the public education system. Starting from current academic year the Turkish state has adopted an education policy which seems to emphasize integration, as the temporary education centres are gradually phased out in favour of mandated participation in the public schools at both the kindergarten and first grade levels. This new educational policy presents challenges to refugee students, their families, and teachers and brings discussions on the main principles embedded in the national curriculum and the immigration policies of the country. Based on primary data, this paper attempts to contribute to the literature on integration of refugees/migrants in host countries. The study will also attempt to shed light on impact of cultural/ideological affinity on integration policies of a host country.

Understanding Turkey’s Policy towards Refugees: Unpacking National and Local Politics

Fulya Memisoglu Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Over the course of nearly six years, Syria has become the world’s largest source of displacement. Over 11 million people are estimated to have fled their homes to seek refuge within and beyond Syria’s borders. As of January 2017, the number of Syrians seeking asylum in neighbouring countries – with the highest concentrations in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan– has reached nearly five million, comprising around 90 per cent of the total Syrian population seeking international protection. These major host states of first asylum have adjusted their institutional and policy framework to different extents and purposes: in some cases to provide support for Syrian refugees, in others to reduce their presence and encourage return to Syria. The crisis has created a set of fundamental policy challenges, namely how to ensure ongoing protection in host countries with overwhelmed response capacities. This paper intends to examine the politics of the response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey. It will discuss political dynamics at the national and local levels by examining variations at local government levels which are influenced by factors such as bureaucratic capacity, the size of economy, identity politics and the impact of armed conflict in Syria upon the local population. The paper is mainly based on findings of fieldwork conducted in various provinces of Turkey between September and December 2016.

Ottoman Background to the National Refugee Regime in Turkey

Onur Yildirim, Middle East Technical University

Turkey has been heavily affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Having pursued an open-door policy to admit the refugees from the neighbouring territories, Turkey has mobilized all its related institutions and policies—its national refugee regime—to handle the challenges associated with the influx of millions of displaced people. In due course, those challenges turned into a “refugee problem” with effects on a wide spectrum of national issues. The poor performance of the Turkish state played a major role in the growth of this problem into a global refugee crisis. We believe that it was not only the short-sighted pragmatism of Turkish political leadership but also the inefficiency of the existing institutional framework that underlined the failure of Turkey to address those challenges and their elevation into a global crisis. This paper focuses on the national refugee regime in Turkey, with a special emphasis on its historical foundations. It is our contention that Turkey inherited the great part of its national refugee regime from the Ottoman era, which came with a particular understanding of refugee phenomena. The 1923 Exchange of Populations with Greece institutionalized this understanding and added it into the repertoire of the nascent nation-state. We unpack this “understanding” and identify elements of the Ottoman legacy that came to constitute the foundations of the national refugee regime in Turkey. The paper is based on official refugee-related documentation, the proceedings of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and the Turkish national press.