Resentment rising against Syrian refugees in Turkey’s urban centers: International Crisis Group report

Resentment rising against Syrian refugees in Turkey’s urban centers: International Crisis Group report

ISTANBUL
Resentment rising against Syrian refugees in Turkey’s urban centers: International Crisis Group report

Resentment against Syrians living in Turkey is rising, particularly in the country’s urban centers where most Syrians live, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned in a recent report. 

The ICG particularly flagged up the hard-scrabble Istanbul district of Sultangazi as a site where tensions are rising amid an influx of refugees.

“Public services such as health and education, already strained by the district’s rapid expansion, have been further overstretched by the refugee influx. Locals complain about long lines at hospitals, crowded classrooms, skyrocketing rents, packed buses and piled-up trash. The sense that the Syrian influx has worsened the quality of life is sowing resentment among hosts, irrespective of political affiliation,” the ICG warned in its report.

Sultangazi is home to pious Sunni Muslim conservatives, left-leaning Alevis, Turkish ultra-nationalists and Kurdish-speaking communities, who now live side by side with up to 50,000 Syrians, as well as approximately 8,000 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

“In conversations with Crisis Group, residents referred to their quarter as ‘a district of victimhood’ because it brings together so many different people – citizens and non-citizens – who have had to leave their hometowns behind for political or economic reasons,” the report stated.

Rising inner-city pressure

The ICG’s warning about Sultangazi came after an earlier report published last month called “Turkey’s Syrian Refugees: Defusing Metropolitan Tensions,” which focused on the rising intercommunal violence in the metropolitan areas. 

That report stated that violence between host communities and Syrian refugees increased threefold in the second half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 and at least 35 people died in these incidents during 2017, including 24 Syrians.

“The potential for anti-refugee violence is highest in the metropolitan areas of Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir where host communities see Syrians as culturally different and resent their competition for low-wage jobs or customers, especially within the informal economy,” the report warned.

According to estimates by local ICG researchers, Turkey is currently hosting some 3.4 million registered and around 400,000 unregistered Syrian nationals.

The ICG report advised the Turkish government to reach out to constituencies who may sympathize with the opposition parties in order to prevent tensions between the communities. Opposition parties also have a role to work constructively to bridge the divides, it added.

“They need to be careful not to spread misinformation or exploit the growing angst about Syrians among their constituents,” the ICG stated.

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