‘Private sector should address refugee question,’ Turkish businesswoman says
“We cannot force them to go back, as businesspeople, we also need to find a way to integrate them into a system that will create a win-win situation, both for refugees and host communities,” said Limak Investment Chair Ebru Özdemir.
Özdemir spoke at the launch of the Atlantic Council’s report called “Toward Long-Term Solidarity with Syrian Refugees? Turkey’s Policy Response and Challenges.”
“Why does it matter to me as a businessperson? That is because this is not a temporary situation; it has long-term development implications for Turkey and the region,” she said, explaining her company’s support to the report. Limak Holding is among Turkey’s biggest companies, investing in mega projects like the new airport in Istanbul and the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge.
Refugees should not remain as “untapped human capital,” said Özdemir, adding that the private sector should play a role in addressing the issue.
“We have to worry about the future and as the private sector, think about different models,” said the chair.
On the other hand, Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin said the city’s absorption capacity is almost full, as 20 percent of the population of two million consist of Syrian refugees. When she started as a mayor in 2014, of the 107,000 Syrian children, only 3,000 were attending school, Şahin said. Currently, 70 thousand children are enrolled in school and the primary school enrollment rate is close to 100 percent, according to Şahin.
“Even these numbers prove Gaziantep and the president of Turkey deserve a Nobel Prize,” she said.
“One of our biggest problems is the fact that we cannot explain to the outside world what we have been doing. There is a tremendous level of sacrifice being done,” said Şahin.