Turkey is struggling to cope with the 2.7 million Syrians it hosts, and honor its agreement to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. Meanwhile, renewed fighting in Syria pushes tens of thousands of Syrians closer to the border with Turkey, in a sign that the problem could still get worse.
Turkey is scrambling to create long-term solutions for millions of people it had expected to house temporarily. An analysis released by several think tanks and aid groups in February listed these hurdles for refugees: bureaucracy, unemployment, poor housing conditions and limited access to education. As an example of the bureaucracy, the report noted, “a bank account was required to obtain a residence permit, while a residence permit was required to open a bank account.”
“When people flee from war, they usually do so hoping to return home soon” said Selin Unal, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee program in Turkey. “They move nearby, like just across the border, where they can keep an eye on their homes and livelihoods.”
Most Syrian refugees in Turkey are living along the southeastern border with Syria. But more than one million people are spread throughout the country, in cities and in rural areas. Istanbul alone has nearly 400,000 registered Syrians, according to the Turkish government.
Of the 700,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, fewer than half are enrolled. The Turkish government is developing a plan to try to close the gap, including creating schools that will employ Syrian teachers and teach in Arabic.
“After living day to day for five years, many migrants and refugees want to plan for the future, and this means being able to provide for their families themselves,” said Abby Dwommoh, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration in Turkey.
[New York Times]