Giving Compass' Take:

• Omer Karasapan reports that while public opinion in Turkey was once favorable toward Syrian refugees, but has now turned. 

• How can funders help to build positive public opinion of refugee communities? What policies can maximize the positive experiences around the integration of refugees? 

• Learn about the danger of forced return for Syrian refugees

According to Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration, Syrian refugees with temporary protected status—44 percent of them children—plus 100,000 Syrians with legal residency and 93,000 who have been granted citizenship. There are also unregistered Syrians: 34,000 were apprehended in 2018; actual numbers are likely higher.

Only 2.4 percent of Syrians are in camps, with the remainder mostly in Turkey’s cities. Foremost is Istanbul with 548,000 registered Syrians but with an equal number who are mostly registered elsewhere in Turkey. Large numbers are also in cities near Syria including Gaziantep (443,000), Sanliurfa (431,000), Hatay province (430,000), and the rest scattered throughout Turkey.

Over 64 percent of the urban Syrian households live close to or below the poverty line. Some 1 million Syrians work informally, with 20 percent of them minors. One-third of Turkish workers also work informally, though generally commanding higher wages. According to a survey by the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and the World Food Program (WFP), 84 percent of refugee households have at least one person working but only 3 percent had work permits. Work permits are available to Syrian refugees, but employers must apply on their behalf and pay taxes and social security while providing at least the minimum wage. This means that there were only about 60,000 work permits in 2019. The 2019 monthly minimum wage was 2,020 Turkish liras (TL) after taxes, Syrians with regular jobs (a “contract” and regular hours) averaged 1,312 TL, the 54 percent who were irregular workers made 1,058 TL. Also, 1.6 million of the most vulnerable refugees are supported by the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net providing 120 TL monthly per family member.

Syrian refugees have access to free healthcare and education but poverty and the need to work coupled with language difficulties mean that 40 percent remain out of school. Language also poses a barrier to health care. A conditional cash transfer program supported by the EU and others reaches 460,000 refugee children, with a higher stipend for girls to encourage attendance. For many refugees, life is not easy, but it is safe compared to Syria and according to polls there is no wish to return to Assad’s Syria.

At first proud to be hosts, Turkish public opinion has turned against the refugees.

Read the full article about Turkey’s Syrian refugees by Omer Karasapan at Brookings.