Turkey sets an example
They have sought refuge in Turkey fleeing the civil war that started five years ago. Turkey has become the second home to the refugees, Syrians primarily, who have been returned, often violently, from the gates of Europe.
The humanitarian crisis instigated by the revolt that began in 2011 against the Syrian leader Bashar Assad is one of the main topics on the world agenda, in particular for the past year. Baby Aylan’s dead body may have awakened the developed countries, Europe to start with, but Turkey has been coping with this issue for a long time. Turkey is setting an example in the way it deals with this matter, and numerous experts in the West confirm this.
The number of refugees entering the country has exceeded 2.5 million since Turkey started its open-door policy for Syrian refugees. The number of Syrian babies alone born in Turkey has exceeded 150,000.
Turkey has been admired not only for its amazing growth performance over the past 13 years, but also for its implementation of a mature and comprehensive migration policy based on its vision and humanitarian values. What are the priorities of this policy and what will happen in the days ahead?
Feeling safe and at home
The refugee return agreement signed between Turkey and Europe was drafted in March and went into force on April 4, requiring Turkey to shoulder a large part of the burden of the humanitarian crisis. Aside from the assurances given by Europe, Turkey was confident when signing this agreement. According to the United Nations High Commissioner data, more than 2.5 million refugees live in Turkey and nothing has happened to threaten society; refugees feel safe and at home. In addition to the refugee camps built by the government, many other methods of support make this situation possible. Not only Syrians, but also refugees from other countries have been given the right to work with a new law passed in recent weeks.
Learning Turkish, working and being productive
Now you can see individuals all around Turkey who not only work and are productive members of society, but have also become an organic component of that society; falafel shops, street musicians, workers in textile shops are but a few of these. In fact, Standard and Poor’s, while explaining Turkey’s credit rating, has recently noted that refugees’ contribution to the growth rate amounts to 0.2 percentage points, which is not something to be belittled. Likewise, due to the advantages of cultural similarities and sharing the same faith, no major problems are encountered in implementing adaptation policies. Provided with elementary education in their native language, Syrian children also receive basic health services. They are also given the opportunity to learn Turkish; even though Arabic and Turkish are of two different language families, common words help to facilitate communication. Many of the refugee children have already learned to speak Turkish fluently.
NGOs and companies donate
It is not just the government that is taking part in the humanitarian efforts supporting Turkey’s refugee policies – common citizens, local administrators, NGOs and companies also strive to shoulder this burden together. Those who have extra items send them to the needy via local administrations. Families sharing their food with the refugee family living next door is no longer news but rather commonplace. Several companies make annual donations to support the refugees either directly or through an NGO. Organizations such as the United Nations, Support To Life, Association for Solidarity with Refugees and Immigrants, and the Humanitarian Aid Foundation work day and night on refugee relief efforts. There are teachers, health professionals, psychologists and lawyers in these organizations. It is very easy to reach them at almost any point where there is a need. In fact, while Turkey provided nearly $4.1 million in humanitarian aid in 2006, today it is estimated that this support exceeds $6 billion with aid in kind and contributions from NGOs and private corporations. Then again, this is just the direct financial aid. Turkey is the third most generous country after the US and the UK, in terms of the share of its GDP it allocates for global humanitarian assistance.