Migrant children suffer the most from anti-refugee sentiment, say child psychologists

Child psychologists have said migrant children are affected the most by anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey since they are are subjected to discrimination and bullying in school.

Speaking to Deutsche Well Turkish service (DW), the psychologists said they were working with schools and teachers to tackle anti-migrant sentiment. “Discrimination is rampant in schools. Arab children are excluded from games and friendship circles,” said psychologist Ayda Yılmaz. “These children become introverted over time and are nearly always alone.”

Yılmaz said she frequently hears sentiments such as “They’re Arabs, they’re not like us” in schools. She believes children hear these expressions from their parents and other family members, or on TV. “They repeat what they hear in school, so it is important that schools work extra hard to counter these sentiments,” she said.

Psychologist Tülay Kaya said a highly intelligent Syrian student who was at the top of her class in Syria was currently struggling in Turkey. The student had been excluded by her classmates and did not want to go to school. “Each time this student missed school, her class celebrated as if it was some kind of festival,” she said.

Buse Karakadılar said she witnessed Syrian children grow more silent and closed to communication over time due to bullying and discrimination. She said Turkish students did not allow Syrians to use certain classrooms or attend activities. “They say we are in Turkey and this space belongs to Turks and completely shut out the migrant students,” she added.

Karakadılar explained there are many parents who do not want their children to attend school with Syrian children, who are often treated as they are inferior to locals. Language barriers also aggravate the problem, making it imperative to educate children in mutual understanding and tolerance.

Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, 3.7 million from Syria granted temporary protection status and over 400,000 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills, have been escalating in the country in recent years.

Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.

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