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The Time For Turkey to Consider Long Term Integration Efforts has Arrived

Having welcomed over 3.5 million Syrian Refugees into their country due to civil conflict in Syria (more than any other country), the time for Turkey to develop long term integration efforts has seemingly arrived. Only a handful of these 3.5 million fleeing the conflict in Syria though are registered as asylum seekers, leaving the majority of them vulnerable to unlawful deportation, coerced returns to Syria and the denial of basic services such as health care and education. The Turkish government is attempting to provide aid where it is able and sees fit, spending an estimated 450 million euros a month, covering basic needs, such as education facilities, health centers and medical services. Turkey has spent an overall estimate of about $30 billion since 2011, with minimal international burden sharing.

Demographically, the vast majority of these refugees are mixed in with the Turkish population, concentrated in twelve of Turkey’s eighty one provinces. Only 213,000 are estimated to be living in refugee camps provided by Turkey. The number of Syrians in Kilis (a province in south central Turkey that borders Syria) alone, make up about 95% of its local population. This vast number of refugees throughout all of Turkey though, is only expected to grow in the coming years. Turkish Authorities have estimated by 2028 there will over 5 million Syrians taking refuge in Turkey, a clear call for more durable forms of protection and full integration.

Integration efforts of sorts have already begun in Turkey, though have all come to face challenges of their own, such as monetary needs or Turkish Law. Mr.Erdogan The Turkish President for instance, has granted citizenship to more than 60,000 Syrians (mostly those with higher cultural and economic capital). The issue with this number, is that the remaining millions of Syrians taking refuge in Turkey are left in “limbo”, left to face rather distasteful and difficult conditions. To further protect those in “limbo”, Turkey’s 2014 Law on Foreigners and International Protection, states that foreigners and others will not be sent back to places where they will be tortured, or suffer inhumane treatment, or be threatened due to race, religion or group membership. The issue with this seemingly ideal law though, is that it prevents large influxes of refugees to resettle permanently in Turkey. The Turkish government has also been working to expand education for the 800,000 Syrian refugee children since 2016, attempting to integrate them into the public school system. By the end of 2018, the Turkish government plans to close all temporary education centers and plans to build in their place 150 new schools with donated funds. Building these new schools and permanently integrating these Syrian refugees cannot be done though without additional sources of money.

GOAL, an NGO that works towards ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, especially those affected by humanitarian crises, have access to the necessities of life such as shelter, food, water and sanitation, healthcare, education, and economic opportunities, would be perfectly suited to offer aid towards further integration of the Syrian refugees into Turkish society. GOAL has been working in Turkey since 2014, and has reached over 43,000 Syrian refugees with health care services, and has reached many more through additional services such as vocational training support and legal support within Turkey. With the correct funding, GOAL would be able to strengthen the variety of areas that it already helps, providing a brighter future for the refugees already living within Turkey’s borders.

Providing crucial assistance to countries all across the world that are in crisis, as well as helping refugees through months and likely years of displacement, the IGO, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has played a vital role in Turkey. The UNHCR has helped manage the entry of refugees through two border points by giving security checks as well as health checks and registration. In addition, the staff visited the border areas and camps daily in order to supply necessary aid. The UNHCR supported Turkey’s 2014 Law on Foreigners and International Protection as well, revealing them to be in support of further integration of Syrian refugees into Turkish society. With additional funding provided by the State Department, GOAL and the UNHCR would have access to new forms of aid and influence that would allow them to permanently integrate Syrian refugees into Turkey.