Syrian migrants have said in comments to the Evrensel daily that they were continuously blamed for rising unemployment and economic crises in Turkey, but that they could barely survive on the wages they earned.
Amid increasing anti-migrant sentiment, the Syrians said the problem was not their presence in the country but the government’s policies. Most Syrians are seen as cheap labor as they work for 50 percent lower wages than Turkish nationals, and employers rarely provide insurance benefits for their Syrian workers.
“I don’t understand why people think we are stealing their jobs,” said one migrant. “I work without insurance and in jobs that nobody else wants. We also face many hardships, but we try to do the best we can.”
Many Syrians are upset that they cannot become citizens. “Of course, if you are a citizen you have the same rights as any other Turk,” said another Syrian migrant. “However, you need to pay $250 to become a citizen, which is too expensive for most of us.”
Hüseyin, who came to Turkey during the civil war in Syria, said there was a general misconception that the government gave them financial aid but said this stopped long ago. “We don’t even want aid, we just want to be able to work,” he said.
This presumption is based on an agreement that was signed between the European Union and Turkey in 2016. According to the agreement the EU granted Turkey a total of €6 billion in humanitarian assistance. These funds were meant to cover the basic needs of refugees.
Another migrant from Iraq said they were always under the spotlight. “We make TL 250 [$17] a week, how can we be the reason for the economic crisis?” he said. “A head teacher even asked my friend why they kept having more children when he went to enroll his child.”
Some Turkish interviewees said they were uncomfortable that migrants had started to learn the language and stood up for themselves when faced with discrimination. “They are not like when they first arrived. I don’t think they’ll return to their countries, but I don’t want them to stay here,” said on Turkish worker. “They have children now, and they’re settled in the country. They’re not as easily intimidated as when they first arrived.”
Migrants have repeatedly expressed to the media that although they have been living in Turkey for years, they feel socially alienated and economically disadvantaged.
They have been increasingly targeted by hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills.
Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against Syrians in Turkey.
According to UNHCR Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.