Planting the Seeds of Success? Turkey’s New Refugee Work Permits

Turkey’s December 2015 announcement of a work permit option for registered Syrian refugees is a momentous step, with support expressed by the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations, and donor governments alike.

The decision is indeed encouraging both for ensuring refugees’ rights are respected and for promoting self-sufficiency. The implementation process for the work permits is just beginning, and while the new policy has promise, there are also potential obstacles and warning signs in the process as it appears on paper. The day-to-day impact of this new development for both the Syrian refugee population and the Turkish host community must be carefully considered as the work permit plan moves forward.

“Work permits must be part of an integration plan for Syrians.”

member of turkish host community


  • The Turkish government should implement a clear and comprehensive informational campaign to educate Turkish employers and the general public about Syrian refugees’ work rights and responsibilities.
  • The Turkish government should implement a clear and comprehensive informational campaign to educate Syrian refugees about their work rights and to help them navigate the application system. This should include support in using the online work permit application system as well as offering language-appropriate vocational training in employment centers.
  • The Turkish government should regularly consult with non-governmental organizations providing services to Syrian refugees about how to best contribute to the success of not only the work permit plan, but all aspects of support to Syrians.
  • The U.S. government, in consultation with the Turkish government, should support the implementation of the work permit plan for Syrian refugees through diplomatic and targeted programmatic resources in areas such as public information and vocational training services.
  • The European Union should set clear and accountable benchmarks in its deal with Turkey about how its assistance will be spent in order to accurately monitor progress of the agreement, including at least one pertaining to tracking the real benefits being offered by work permits.

Daryl Grisgraber and Ann Hollingsworth traveled to Turkey in February and March 2016.