Migration experts in an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service accused the Turkish government of using migrants for their political ambitions and failing to develop effective integration policies.
Amid increasing anti-migrant sentiment, experts have warned authorities to develop better policies for the safety and integration of migrants. Mahmut Kaya, from Harran University in southeastern Urfa province, said particularly in border towns social discontent towards migrants had increased due to economic problems.
“These towns do not have the capacity to accommodate so many migrants. On top of that these towns are often the poorest,” he said. “Many people are angry at the government for the increasing number of migrants, and opposition politicians often fuel that anger for their own gain.”
Kaya added that Syrian migrants in particular were regarded as temporary guests, which was another reason their social and economic integration was not a priority for authorities.
According to Murat Erdoğan, director of the Turkish German University Migration and Integration Research Center, said the situation has to change immediately since even the smallest incident could turn into a massive social reaction against migrants.
“Currently 85 percent of the country is against migrants,” said Erdoğan, “Yes, there is discontent, but that could quickly escalate. The government needs to be adamant in preventing this and gaining public trust when it comes to migrants.”
Erdoğan emphasized that there were two crucial aspects of integration: giving migrants work permits and ensuring their children attend school.
However, Sibel Karadağ from Kadir Has University said integration was not that straightforward. “On the one hand Turkey is an authoritarian country, on the other the economic crisis is deepening. How can we talk about meaningful integration under these conditions?” she said.
Other experts said migrants were living in precarious situations and that even the smallest confrontation with the police could lead to their deportation. Migrants have been deported for minor offenses such as being involved in a traffic accident, failing to update their address and telephone information with the Directorate General of Migration and Management (DGMM), forgetting their identity card at home or even for arguing with their neighbors.
Experts have also criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for changing his stance on migrants.Erdoğan, who long pursued an open-door policy toward refugees, said at a meeting with ambassadors at AKP headquarters in Ankara on Monday evening that his government is making efforts for the dignified return of Syrians to their homeland.
He said Turkey is temporarily hosting 5 million displaced people, 3.5 million of whom are Syrians, adding, “No matter how alone we’ve been left [to handle refugees], we are making our best efforts for the voluntary and dignified return of our Syrian brothers and sisters to their homeland.”
In recent months refugees in Turkey have been the target of hate crimes, which, many say, are the result of the increasing anti-refugee discourse in the country. Speaking to the media, experts have said anti-migrant sentiments could even lead to a pogrom.