Syrians in Turkey in precarious situation as citizenship applications indefinitely suspended by authorities

Nearly 10 years after the civil war began in Syria, refugees are still struggling with their precarious status in Turkey as most have not been able to acquire Turkish citizenship and their applications have been indefinitely suspended by the authorities, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

Thousands of Syrian refugees who have been in Turkey for more than five years submitted their application documents to obtain citizenship and were interviewed by authorities. However, they have found that their citizenship process was suspended without reason.

“I applied for citizenship and then waited three years, after which they told me that my application had been suspended,” said Fatma Tata, a young Syrian woman. “I will graduate this year, but I won’t be able to work under these conditions.”

Musab Hawsa, 29, who fled to Turkey eight years ago and works as a practitioner at a medical school, said his citizenship application was also abruptly suspended after waiting three years.

“If they had told me earlier, I would have planned accordingly. I would like to get a residency [at the medical school] but was waiting to get my citizenship for that. I think I may need to leave Turkey,” he said.

In some cases, parents have become Turkish citizens while their children were not able to. This has become a problem, especially since most children were born in Turkey and do not have Syrian citizenship, either. “It has become a bureaucratic hassle to prove the children are ours each time the police ask for our documents,” said one Syrian mother whose children were stateless.

According to a report drafted by Solaris, an NGO that words to support vulnerable populations, the law stipulates that if the parents have Turkish citizenship then the children also should be given citizenship. “Giving children of Turkish citizens temporary protection, which is the case for refugees, is against the law,” said the report.

A Syrian parent who gave an interview for the report said their children were stateless. He said they could not plan anything for their future until their children obtained citizenship.

Another parent, Abdurrahman Abdulkerim, 33, said he felt unwanted in Turkey and planned on moving to Europe. He said his three children were stateless and he believed they would not be able to acquire citizenship at this point.

An estimated 3.6 million refugees have been granted temporary protection in Turkey. The majority of them live outside camps, in precarious and challenging circumstances.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had promised Syrian refugees Turkish citizenship in 2016. However, he did not explain how this would happen or the criteria for applying for citizenship. Dr. Murat Erdoğan, an immigration expert at the Turkish-German University, said granting citizenship to almost 3 million people at once was unheard of.

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