While refugees are allowed to seek employment under Turkish law, legal jobs are largely inaccessible for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey. In its study, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights”: Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey, Refugees International examines the challenges and consequences facing refugees as they seek employment in Turkey. The study is based on a October 2017 research mission.
The report finds that without legal employment, refugees become trapped in a cycle of informal work where the risk of exploitation and abuse is high and wages are low. Refugees in Turkey face enormous hurdles to finding legal employment and commonly work excessively long hours often in difficult working conditions and are paid a faction of their Turkish counterparts. In addition, the lack of decent wages for adult refugees pushes many refugee children into the job market as well, instead of attending school.
One of the difficulties refugees face is a climate of hostility and negative myths about the impact of refugees on Turkish society. To address these issues, the Government of Turkey should both educate the Turkish public about refugees and their positive contribution to Turkish society and encourage employers to hire refugees. In this context, where Turkey already hosts 3.5 million refugees and does not provide them with adequate protections, EU countries should not send asylum-seekers from Greece to Turkey, as provided under an agreement between the EU and Turkey in March 2016.
The RI report offers the following policy recommendations, among several others:
- The Government of Turkey should create incentives for employers to hire refugees and educate employers on the current work permit policy. In addition, Turkey’s government should implement a clear and comprehensive informational campaign to educate the Turkish public on the positive contribution of refugees to Turkey’s overall economy.
- For its part, the European Union, which provides billions of Euros to Turkey for projects to assist refugees, should place greater emphasis on livelihoods and enabling the refugee population to be self-sufficient.
- The United States should significantly increase resettlement of refugees from Turkey to the United States, particularly for people with vulnerabilities.