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Refugees have become part of Turkish society despite facing problems, research reveals

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The results of a recent study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation Turkey Representation have shown that refugees express greater satisfaction with their lives in Turkey compared to the local population and have become part of society despite facing a range of problems, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Wednesday.

The independent political think tank is affiliated with the German Green Party and has been active in Turkey since 1994.

The findings of the research on migration and the social integration of migrants in Turkey after 2010, which was conducted by academics Deniz Yükseker, Hatice Kurtuluş, Uğur Tekin and Esra Kaya Erdoğan with the support of the foundation, were announced at a panel discussion held in İstanbul on Wednesday.

The panel discussion, where the results of the fieldwork conducted in 16 provinces between June and October 2022 were announced, featured Cem Bico, the project coordinator of the foundation’s Turkey Representation, and Yükseker, as speakers.

According to the results of the study conducted with Turks and refugees, including Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Turkmenistan nationals, individuals from African countries and mostly Syrians, refugees are more satisfied with living in the country than Turks.

When asked “Are you satisfied with living in Turkey?” 35.7 percent of Turks said they weren’t, whereas among Syrians, this figure was 14.2 percent and for other migrants, it was 18.8 percent. In response to the same question, 52 percent of Syrians, 64 percent of other migrants and 42 percent of Turks answered they were satisfied with it.

The research revealed that 48.8 percent of Turkish youths are dissatisfied with living in Turkey. While 62.2 percent of Turkish youths express a desire to live in another country, 61.4 percent of Syrian and other migrant youths want to continue living in Turkey.

Noting that Turkey hosts the highest number of refugees worldwide, Yükseker said they observed during the research that migrants and refugees have become an integral part of society in Turkey “despite all the adverse conditions.”

According to the results of the research, participants’ continuation of education is least observed among Syrians, with a rate of 75.3 percent. Among the reasons for this are the significant number of male children being withdrawn from schools at the high school age to join the workforce, and for female children, withdrawal from education by their families upon entering adolescence. Additionally, anti-migrant discourse contributes to discrimination and peer bullying of refugees in education.

Yükseker stated that child labor is most prevalent among Syrian migrants, while the employment rate for migrant women is below the national average for Turkish women.

The academic emphasized that Syrians and Afghans have become integral elements of the workforce. She added that the prevalent belief in society, suggesting that most refugees receive financial support from the state, does not accurately reflect reality. The research indicates that only 22.6 percent of Syrians claim to receive social assistance.

When asked whether they experienced any injustice during their time in Turkey, 88 percent of Turkish participants, 79.9 percent of Syrians and 83.6 percent of other migrants answered “no.”

Among those who claimed to have experienced injustice, Turkish participants primarily cited economic status, gender and ethnic identity as reasons, while Syrians emphasized language, nationality and economic status, and other migrants highlighted being a foreigner, nationality, ethnic identity and language.

The research further shows that there is minimal mutual assistance between Turks and migrants in daily life, with the frequency of Turks visiting the homes of neighbors or acquaintances who are not of the same nationality being extremely low. Some 67 percent of Turkish participants, 37.6 percent of Syrian migrants and 52.8 percent of other migrants stated that they never visit the homes of neighbors or acquaintances who are not of the same nationality.

Anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey has been on the rise for several years, and it gained further prominence in the context of the country’s elections in May. In the campaign leading up to the general election and two rounds of the presidential race, the issue of refugees became a central point of contention.

The politicians’ tough stance on refugees, coupled with increasing nationalist rhetoric, stoked existing anxieties and anti-refugee sentiment among some segments of society, resulting in an increasingly hostile environment for refugees in Turkey.

The growing anti-refugee sentiment is rooted not only in political rhetoric but also in the social and economic challenges the country faces. Refugees are often blamed for exacerbating these issues, despite the complexities of the underlying problems.

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