Turkey failed on urban refugee policies: Expert

Turkey failed on urban refugee policies: Expert

Sevil Erkuş
Turkey failed on urban refugee policies: Expert

A Syrian refugee boy sits in front of a truck with a campaign poster of Turkish Prime minister and presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 8 near a mosque in Istanbul. AFP Photo / Bülent Kılıç

Neither the Turkish government, nor the international agencies were ready to deal with the problem of “urban refugees” in Turkey, and they still have no strategy on the issue, former UNHCR officer and Vice Chairman of Asylum and Migration Research Center Metin Çorabatır has told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.

“Turkey could not adapt its policies in the face of increasing population of urban refugees,” Çorabatır said, noting that neither local nor international agencies have a strategy to combat the issue.

All these institutions concentrated on the issue of Syrian refugees in camps, and then the problem of urban refugees suddenly appeared out of nowhere, he added.

Çorabatır also addressed the lack of legal regulations in Turkey regarding the mass influx of refugees, highlighting how the Turkish government has faced difficulty in handling urban refugees due to internal confusions in dealing with the issue.

“The government should assign a responsible institution to handle the mass influx of urban refugees,” he said.

Çorabatır also added that Turkey should cooperate more with international humanitarian agencies and not restrict foreign media access to the camps if it wants to raise awareness of Syrian refuges in the country in order to receive more international aid.

Syrian refugee crisis

With regard to the current Syrian refugee crises, the Turkish government initially hesitated in foreign assistance at the earlier stages, as it restricted support from the UNHCR in its camps, enabled only limited access of foreign media into camps and still refuses appeals from universities in conducting research in these camps, Çorabatır said.

Citing recent attacks on Syrian refugees by locals, he drew attention to a “rise in racism” against Syrian refugees and stressed the need to conduct campaigns to raise public awareness on why displaced Syrians had to take shelter in Turkey.

Çorabatır underlined how the issue has even been “politicized,” with some Turkish party member’s describing Syrian refugees as “terrorists.”

“The [Turkish] government was right in implementing the open door policy for Syrians,” however, it did not implement the necessary policies to integrate those refugees into Turkish society, he added.
The UNHCR, for its part, did not perform public awareness function, Metin Çorabatır also noted.