Refugees International is gravely concerned by credible reports of Turkey’s deportation of Syrians in Istanbul to Idlib in northwest Syria and calls for the immediate halt to any such forcible returns.
Turkey currently hosts the largest population of refugees in the world, including a growing number of Afghan refugees. Following a recent change in asylum procedures for Afghans and other non-Syrians in Turkey, Afghans have been facing increasing difficulties in registering with the authorities. Izza Leghtas and Jessica Thea recommend ways in which Turkish officials can make policy adjustments that will better ensure the rights of refugees.
In this statement, Refugees International expresses its deep concern regarding the return in recent weeks of thousands of Afghan nationals from Turkey back to Afghanistan where their safety is at risk. On April 23, Turkey’s minister of the interior announced that 7,100 Afghans had been returned to Afghanistan and that thousands more would follow shortly.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A major problem with Turkey for the millions of refugees there, it has a model work permit system for the newcomers, but it still bars them from the country’s labor market. Such problems can be overcome, experts contend, so that the refugees can work for decent wages in Turkey.
Izza Leghtas, a Refugees International senior advocate, and Kirsten Schuettler, a senior program officer at the World Bank, discussed these challenges for refugees in Turkey at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University on Jan. 22. Leghtas, noting that Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, at 3.5 million, of whom 3.2 million are Syrians, shared her recent report, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights; Legal Employment Still Inaccessible for Refugees in Turkey.”
Many outsiders think that refugees live mostly in camps, which is hardly true in Turkey, Leghtas explained. In fact, Istanbul, despite being an expensive city of 14 million residents, is a metropolis that attracted many refugees at first or who gravitated to it eventually. About 530,000 officially registered Syrian refugees live in Istanbul, although the total number may well be more than 700,000.
Article 17 of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, Schuettler pointed out in a policy brief that she wrote with two others, gives refugees “the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as regards the right to engagement in wage-earning employment.”
However, the brief, titled “Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets,” also says “some countries completely legally bar refugees from work, be it as an employee or starting a business.”
For the full article, click here.
The subject of refugees always enacts a mix of emotions. Some people believe that refugees detract from the local community; others that they enhance it and give back more than they take from society. I’m in the latter camp but that’s because I’ve undertaken research on the matter. (I’ve made a documentary on the subject.: “Stepping Up: NZ’s response to the refugee crisis. https://www.luciadore.com/blog/stepping-up-nz-s-response-to-the-refugee-crisis).
I continue to do research on the subject. Indeed, I’m undertaking ongoing research with the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC) (http://www.canterburyrefugeecentre.org.nz/) where we’re looking at employment and health.
So this article that was published in the Brookings Brief was both timely and enlightening. What will New Zealand learn about the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR).
What the UN can learn from Turkey about refugees
By Jessica Brandt and Kemel Kirisci
As the crisis in Syria enters its seventh year, it shows little sign of abating. The violence there has killed nearly half a million people and displaced more than 11 million others—over six million of them within the country, and roughly five-and-half millionbeyond its borders within the region. Although nearly a million more have sought asylum in Europe, the majority of Syrian refugees reside in neighboring states, which have been called upon to shoulder the social, political, and economic consequences. Approximately 3.5 million are seeking new lives in Turkey. As Syrian regime attacks on the Idlib region mount, there are fears that these numbers may well increase.
Against this backdrop, there is a growing international recognition of the need for new approaches—and new energy behind efforts to identify them. United Nations member states are now in the process of developing a new Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), designed to improve responses to displacement worldwide, which will be adopted when world leaders convene in New York in September of this year. A key component of the GCR is the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which lays out objectives that include easing pressures on refugee-hosting countries, building refugee self-reliance, expanding access to resettlement, and supporting conditions for refugees to return home voluntarily. It is intended to take “whole of society” approach, bringing together a range of stakeholders for a coordinated response.
The CRRF is being applied in 13 countries. None of them are in the Middle East—despite the considerable experience amassed by frontline states, which together host roughly a quarter of all refugees worldwide. Capturing this knowledge, and ensuring that it informs the Programme of Action that will accompany the CRRF and underpin its implementation, is critical.
A few lessons are immediately evident
First, since the European migration crisis of 2015, Syrian refugees have been seen as a threat to the stability and future of Europe. There has been a concerted effort to keep Syrian refugees close to home with walls, barbed wire, and the deterrent effect of squalid conditions, especially on the Greek islands. The implicit assumption in Europe is that Syrian refugees, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, are more likely to integrate into their host communities in the frontline countries because of cultural affinity. This is a simplistic approach. It fails to recognize challenges resulting from economic, political, social, and even cultural differences between host communities and refugees. A public opinion survey in Turkey completed late in 2017 reveals that 80 percent of Turkish society believes that refugees either “do not resemble at all” or “do not resemble” them culturally. Strikingly, this percentage increases in some parts of Turkey bordering Syria, where locals “share the same geography, religion, sect and even ethnic commonality with Syrians,” as survey author Murat Erdoğan notes.
Second, engagement between humanitarian actors and local authorities is essential. That is in part because of the urbanization of displacement. Today, approximately 60 percent of refugees and at least half of internally displaced people worldwide reside in urban environments. More than 90 percent of Turkey’s refugee population lives outside of traditional refugee camps, almost one million of them in Istanbul and with one city, Kilis, hosting more Syrians than its own population. The Turkish government, civil society, and the municipalities where refugees are concentrated have accumulated rich experience in facilitating integration and managing challenges related to social cohesion.
Cities—and the dense networks of public, private, and civic actors that operate within them—are an inspiring source of innovation. They can also be particularly challenging environments for the displaced, who frequently forgo formal protection when they leave formal camps. In cities, newcomers may find that labor and housing markets are tight, costs are high, social services are strained, and relations with established residents are tense. The latter reality is startling, considering that 75 percent of the Turkish public, according to the above survey, does not agree that it is possible to live in peace with Syrians. Supporting urban projects that mitigate the pressure on public services and nurture a culture of living together (social cohesion) will be essential to managing this resentment.
In a recent report, “I am Only Looking for my Rights,” senior advocate at Refugees International Izza Leghtas illustrates how, while Turkey’s new system of work permits for refugees is an important step forward, few refugees have benefited and exploitative work in the informal sector remains the norm. Some livelihood programs in Turkey’s urban centers are assisting refugees in the difficult task of accessing legal employment, but there is an urgent need for these programs to be expanded. Her work suggests that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should cooperate with municipal authorities to expand the availability of free Turkish language instruction for adult and child refugees, and to support the creation of community centers in Istanbul where refugees can access employment assistance and information about their rights. The report also makes clear that for legal employment of refugees to become a reality, there must be incentives for employers to hire refugees and the private sector must be involved.
Next month, UNHCR is expected to release a “zero draft” of the GCR. Formal consultations on the text, attended by U.N. Member States, will take place between February and July of this year. During that window, UNHCR should find ways to feed lessons from Turkey and other frontline states into the ongoing discussions. One way to accomplish this would be to commission a detailed report that sheds light on good practices, and share it with member states as part of the formal consultation process. This idea, as well as others, are outlined in a forthcoming brief, “The Global Compact for Refugees: Bringing Mayors to the Table, Why and How.”
Drawing on the experience of Turkey, as well as other frontline states like Jordan and Lebanon, which have also received large numbers of Syrian refugees, will help ensure that the CRRF is as effective as it can be. That’s not just good for the framework’s legitimacy—it’s good for the millions of refugees in search of safety, and for the communities that host them.
For the original article, click here.
A new Refugees International report details that, while refugees may seek employment under Turkish law, legal jobs are largely inaccessible for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey. The study, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights”: Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey, 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
Washington, D.C. (December 4, 2017) – A new Refugees International (RI) report released today examines the inaccessibility of work permits for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey, despite the possibility of legal employment under Turkish law. The study, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights”: Legal Employment Still Inaccessible for Refugees in Turkey, is based on interviews with dozens of Syrian and non-Syrian refugees in Turkey in October 2017.
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. In addition, the lack of decent wages for adult refugees pushes many refugee children into the job market as well, instead of attending school.
“Refugees in Turkey face enormous hurdles to finding legal employment,” said Izza Leghtas, RI senior advocate for Europe. “Refugees commonly work excessively long hours and in difficult working conditions and are paid a fraction of their Turkish counterparts.”
While the Government of Turkey took an important and positive step in early 2016 by introducing a system of work permits for Syrian refugees, a possibility which already existed for non-Syrian refugees, most employers are reluctant to apply for these work permits and to pay the required fee. Other difficulties refugees face are language barriers and 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, European Union (EU) governments and the United States should accept much larger numbers of refugees through resettlement and other programs. The report also urges EU governments not to send asylum-seekers from Greece back to Turkey, as provided under an agreement between the EU and Turkey in March 2016.
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.
For interviews with Izza Leghtas (in English, French, Arabic, and Spanish), please contact Gail Chalef, Senior Communications Officer, at either (202) 540-7026 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In October, a Refugees International (RI) colleague and I traveled to Turkey to revisit the issue of work permits and livelihood access for the 3.5 million refugees now living there – 3.2 million of whom are Syrians. As in previous missions, we interviewed Syrian refugees who had recently fled their war-torn homeland.
Izza Leghtas recently completed a two-week research mission in Turkey, investigating the ongoing challenges refugees face in accessing the formal labor market. She met men and women from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran, who shared their personal experiences and described their current jobs and work conditions.
This report reviews the impact of the Greek government's policies, taken to implement the March 2016 EU and Turkey agreement, which have left thousands of men, women, and children trapped on Greece’s small islands in appalling circumstances. These policies seek to end the arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants to Greece by sea, but have left thousands suffering in harsh living conditions, deprived of services and medical care, and often experiencing deteriorating mental health.
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump prepare to meet in Washington, D.C. next week – their first in-person meeting since President Trump took office in January – Refugees International (RI) calls on both leaders to place humanitarian concerns at the forefront of their discussion of the Syrian conflict and their shared desire to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS).
The sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict is upon us. In those six years, five million Syrians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Inside Syria, six and a half million people are displaced from home, and 13.5 million need humanitarian aid to survive even as humanitarian needs continue to grow. The situation for 2017 does not look promising. A hopeful development of the past half decade of the Syria conflict has been the growth of dozens—even hundreds—of local Syrian groups and networks delivering aid inside Syria and their ability to get aid across the border from Turkey into Syria. These groups have become an essential element of assisting people inside Syria, especially in places the United Nations and INGOs cannot get to because of security concerns.
On March 18, the EU and Turkey will mark the one-year anniversary of their joint statement, which sought to stem the flows of asylum-seekers and migrants crossing from Turkey’s shores to the Greek islands. But as this anniversary approaches, Refugees International believes there little cause to celebrate and much more cause for concern. While EU leaders have presented the policy as a success, pointing to the significant decrease in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands since March 2016, the policy has also left thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Greece in shocking conditions and has eroded the right to seek asylum in Europe.
On March 18, the EU and Turkey will mark the one -year anniversary of their joint statement , which sought to stem the flows of asylum-seekers and migrants crossing from Turkey’s shores to the Greek islands. But as this anniversary approaches, Refugee International believes there little cause to celebrate and much more cause for concern. While EU leaders have presented the policy as a success, pointing to the significant decrease in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands since March 2016, the policy has also left thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Greece in shocking conditions and has eroded the right to seek asylum in Europe.