Hard to criticize Turkey’s policy on Syrians, but...
Professor Ayhan Kaya warned about the risk of using numbers while talking about refugees, which he claims dehumanizes them, however it is necessary to use them to understand certain phenomenon.
In 2014, there were around 46,000 refugees who managed to go to Greece from Turkey. This number drastically increased in the first eight months of 2015 and became more than 200,000, according to Kaya.
What’s the reason behind this dramatic increase? “This shows Syrians have lost hope,” said Mustafa Erdoğan, who co-edited with Kaya a book on Turkey’s migration history.
“They now realize that they will not go back soon,” he said.
But then, why not stay in Turkey instead of going for the unknown at the risk of life and death?
Professor Kaya says he has a strong feeling Syrians no longer feel they are welcome in Turkey. There is an important amount of commentators who have written critical articles on why Syrians have ended up feeling not only unwelcome but also insecure in Turkey, which is a worse phenomenon.
Ironically, Turkey is not a country unfamiliar with the phenomenon of immigration. In fact, the book “Turkey’s history of migration, from 14th century to 21st century migrations to Turkey” depicts this country actually as a country of migration. Ironically, this is a fact which was never officially recognized.
But I am sure for instance the migrants flocking to Turkey following the Balkan wars before World War I were exhibiting the same kind of pictures as today’s Syrian refugees.
And actually we should not even go too far back in history. Turkey’s growth story is partly the story of urbanization; migration from the rural part of the country towards the big cities. In the 1990’s some had to leave because of security issues due to the armed conflict between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), others for economic reasons.
While most of the overlaying reasons compelling people to leave their homeland remain the same, there are new factors as well further complicating the immigration issue. Obviously life and death issues compel people to go abroad, but migration experts highlight other reasons that unnecessarily push some of the migrants to take a journey at the risk of their lives.
An expert I talked at the International Migration Organization told me social media has had an effect on the rise of migration recently. Seeing success stories encourages people to seek a better life. While for some the lives left behind entail poverty but not the risk of death, the promise of a better life carries however the risk of drowning in the sea unfortunately.
The smugglers are also to blame. “Some smugglers in Africa go from town to town promoting the journey for a better life,” this expert told me. And he also finally said the migrants themselves were trying to take a shortcut by taking a boat to Europe rather than waiting for the extremely slow bureaucracy. Their impatience is understandable, but the countries lack the necessary infrastructure to digest these huge numbers.
There are therefore many facets to the crisis.
Turkey’s open door policy should be appreciated, yet the fact the country is a host to more than 2 million refugees by itself should not be a reason to not criticize the current policies.
The government needs to adapt its policy to the current realities and in accordance with future projections.
In the short term it should start by going after the smugglers. A robust action against them will at least slow down the illegal trafficking and the tragic deaths. In the long term, necessary measures should be taken with a view of the fact that not only migrants are here to stay but that with a declining population Turkey will be in need of integrating migrants to society. In that respect education and opening the labor market to the migrants seem to be priority areas.
Yet with unemployment on the rise and many families extremely uncomfortable with the current inequalities in the education system the government must find it hard to take action on these issues, especially ahead of elections.
Let’s hope a healthier approach will be endorsed by the government set up after the Nov. 1. elections.