Turkey imposes new restrictions for Syrian refugees


The Turkish government is restricting the movement of Syrians within the country’s territories and banning them from visiting their homeland during the Eid Al-Adha holiday, as signs of social discontent rise.

The country’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, announced the new precautions on migration control during a press conference in the capital Ankara on Saturday.

Starting on July 1, the percentage of foreigners who are allowed to live in each neighborhood will be reduced from 25% to 20% and the government will be closing 1,200 districts to settlement.

Metin Corabatir, president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration in Ankara, said that Syrians preferred living in districts near to industrial zones where they worked, mostly illegally on lower wages to make ends meet.

“If authorities bring quotas on their settlement, it will both violate human rights and impact the industrial hubs where they are currently working as a critical workforce,” he told Arab News.

Turkey hosts more than 4 million refugees of which 3.7 million are Syrian.

Begum Basdas, researcher at the Center for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School in Berlin, thinks that none of these measures can be recognized as migration management.

“The new restrictions brought by the authorities continue to be ad-hoc reactions to mislead the public that they are in control of the situation,” she told Arab News.

“If the government and the oppositional parties wish the Syrians to return to Syria someday, they should promote cross-border relations instead of banning them. Half of the Syrians in Turkey are young people, many of them being born in Turkey. They have no real connection or memory of Syria as they have grown up in Turkey,” Basdas said.

“If the authorities would be sincere in ‘voluntary returns’ they would ensure routes for people to visit their homes and return to their lives in Turkey until Syria is safe to return to. The majority of Syrians in Turkey repeatedly say that they have nowhere to return to, and the ban further limits that possibility.”

With rising economic problems in the country and elections on the horizon, incidents of violence against Syrian refugees are escalating. A 70-year-old Syrian woman was recently kicked in the face by a Turkish man over a local rumor that a refugee kidnapped a child.

The refugees mostly maintain a low profile in public to avoid trouble, after increasingly becoming the scapegoat of the country’s heated domestic politics.

Although governments have the exclusive right to manage irregular migration, Corabatir said that there are increasing reports of new asylum-seekers facing problems in being registered by Turkish authorities, which prevents them from sending their children to school or using health services.

“They are trying to remain invisible. Decreasing the quotas in some neighborhoods will only relocate the integration problems from one district to another if refugees are treated like merchandise. It looks like a forced migration within the country,” he said.

Some far-right politicians have also capitalized on the resentment with inflammatory anti-refugee rhetoric for political gain ahead of approaching elections, as some Turks blame Syrians for stealing their jobs and increasing rental prices.

The number of refugees deported by Turkey rose by 70% this year. According to the latest figures, about 30,000 irregular migrants were deported. The government, however, opts for a softer approach on refugees, preparing the ground for the voluntary return of 1 million Syrians.

So far, as many as 503,150 Syrians in Turkey have returned voluntarily to areas that have been secured in their country. Turkey has been building houses in Syria’s Idlib province — the number has reached 59,000 — with the aim of creating the conditions for return. (Source: Arab News)