Removing barriers to integration should be the main focus of Turkey’s policy towards refugees, according to an expert on the issue.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Başak Yavcan, vice-chair of the Center for Social Policy Research of Turkey’s TOBB University, evaluated sociocultural obstacles, economic challenges, and the issue of education of young Syrians in the context of Turkey’s refugee policy.
According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, more than 19 in 20 Syrians living in Turkey have taken up residence in the country’s cities and towns- mainly in Istanbul, Şanlıurfa, Hatay, Gaziantep, Mersin, and Adana- while fewer than 4% live in refugee camps.
Stressing the need for social acceptance, Yavcan said policies made for Syrians should be explained very well to Turkish locals to achieve common consensus.
“Considering social cohesion, it would be a very positive step for Syrians to live in the cities.
“It is much more preferable for two different societies to live and grow together harmoniously to prevent the occurrence of two parallel societies,” Yavcan said.
Yavcan emphasized that a person could not live in artificial environments like camps for more than six months.
“A person cannot live in a camp for eight years, and it is also very costly for the state,” she said.
“We also wish for the problems to be solved so that parts of the population may return home but it is a bit of a futile effort to pursue return, as we see that as the time passes, this does not happen,” she said.
She added that the Syrian population was not just regular migrants, as they had gone through traumas.
Yavcan noted that teachers at schools did quite well in explaining to Turkish children why Syrian children their age also studied alongside them.
According to UNICEF, estimated 400,000 Syrian children remain out-of-school and due to difficulties such as a lack of awareness of available services, language barriers, socio-economic obstacles and early school dropouts.
“One of the most important problems of integration in education is early marriages, having to work as a child and the families’ socio-economic status making the situation much more difficult than it is,” Yavcan said.
She underlined that access to education for Syrians in Turkey during 2014-2015 was around 30%, though this increased to over 60% in 2019.
Yavcan described why the new generation of migrants should be educated, stressing that each generation of migrant across at the globe differed from its successors and predecessors.
“The first generation remembers the conditions of where they came from, and therefore is grateful to the country that accepts them. But, there is a bigger chance of this effect diminishing in the second generation, which may have adaptation problems especially if there is continued social tension.
“In their point of view they think ‘I was born here and he was born here, why am I discriminated? Or why are my conditions worse?’ It is natural to expect a rebellious approach,” she said.
“These are the kids that need to be invested to, that need to be taken off from streets and that need to be integrated to the education system,” she added.
The government of Turkey has spent more than $30 billion on caring for refugees since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011.