Turkey plans to issue work permits for Syrians

Turkey plans to issue work permits for Syrians

Turkey plans to issue work permits for Syrians

Mahamet, a 17-year-old Syrian boy from Azaz and working as a translator at a jewellery shop , waits for customers in Kilis, Turkey, March 18, 2014, on the Turkish-Syrian border. REUTERS Photo

Ankara is planning to offer Syrian refugees work permits in order to encourage fewer of them to migrate to Europe, Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said Jan. 11, amid pressure from the EU to reduce the flow of migrants from Turkey. 

“We are trying to reduce the pressure for illegal migration by giving Syrians in Turkey work permits,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Bozkır as saying, speaking at a joint press conference with European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans after Bozkır hosted Timmermans in the EU Ministry in Ankara.

“The refugee crisis, by nature, is the most important problem of the EU as well as of Turkey. This is even an agony for humanity,” Bozkır said. 

“The number of migrants captured attempting to migrate illegally has exceeded 150,000, reaching the amount of twice that of last year. Turkish authorities capture around 500 migrants daily,” he said.

“Illegal migration should be turned into legal migration and human traffickers who create the environment of illegal migration should be arrested. Efforts made by coast guards should be beefed up so that there will be no toddlers washing up on beaches,” he added.

Timmermans said during the press conference that the number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to EU member Greece was still “way too high” despite a November deal with Ankara aiming to limit the flow.

“The numbers are still way too high in Greece, between 2,000 and 3,000 people [arrive] every day. We cannot be satisfied at this stage,” Timmermans said, making similar statements he made last week in Amsterdam in which he said “we have seen the first results, which are encouraging. But we are a long way from being satisfied.”

“I also said to the minister that we need... to be very explicit on what elements of the action plan have already been implemented and where we still need work,” Timmermans said. “I believe we need to speed our work to get some of the projects in place.”

Under an action plan agreed in November, EU leaders pledged 3 billion euros in aid for the more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey, in exchange for Ankara acting to reduce the flow.

Timmermans said education for children should be the priority in deploying the funds. 

“The money has not been paid yet but I’ve asked Turkish ministers this morning to identify the projects we can finance immediately so Syrian children can go to school,” he said.

Turkey is the world’s biggest host of refugees amid the greatest global movement of refugees ever recorded. More than 2.2 million Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey from the civil war, now in its sixth year. Another 200,000 Iraqi refugees also shelter there, while migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and Africa all use Turkey as a transit point to Europe.

Turkey, still in its EU accession process, struck a deal with the EU in November 2015 to prevent migrants from traveling to Europe in return for 3 billion euros in cash, a deal on visas, and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc. 

The government has been weighing plans to make it easier for Syrians to earn a living, but it has been hampered by a domestic unemployment rate of about 10 percent as economic growth slows.

Bozkır’s statement came around a month after the International Labor Organization (ILO) stressed the need for a comprehensive measures to regulate the employment of Syrian refugees in Turkey as well as to minimize the negative impact on the local labor market and to turn the issue into an opportunity rather than a threat.

The ILO’s Turkey office presented the findings of four field studies on the impact of Syrians on the Turkish labor market in a report on Dec. 17, 2015, highlighting that institutional capacity needs to be improved at both the central and local level.

“The employment of Syrians is already a reality on the ground. In the absence of the possibility to work legally, they are working informal, low-quality, low-paid jobs, pushing wages down for the local population and endangering workplace peace,” said ILO Turkey Office head Numan Özcan at the launch of the report.

“More than 50 percent of the population of Kilis, 25 percent of the population of Şanlıurfa and 22.5 percent of the population of Gaziantep is made up of Syrians. These cities are beyond their infrastructure capacity, particularly in the areas of municipal services, health, education and social services. Getting access to social services both for host communities and for Syrians is becoming increasingly problematic,” the ILO report stated.

“The increased number of refugees in Turkey necessitates the development of medium- and long-term programs that help planning, coordinating public services, and developing institutional capacity,” it added.