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Community and Conflict: How Turks and Syrian Refugees Learn to Live Together

ANKARA: The latest UN-backed study on Syrian refugees living in Turkey and the reflections of the two communities was released on Monday.

Supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Syrian Barometer-2020: A Framework for Social Cohesion with Syrians in Turkey was published under the direction of Prof. M. Murat Erdogan of Ankara University .

The survey is the third of its kind conducted since 2017. Its findings are based on face-to-face interviews with 2,259 Turkish citizens in 26 cities and 1,414 Syrian households in 15 cities.

The report showed that the level of social acceptance of Syrians is high despite some lingering concerns.

“The acceptance of Syrians by Turkish society has largely turned into ‘tolerance’ rather than an understanding of establishing a practice of living together,” he said.


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80% of Turks say they have provided money or some other form of assistance to Syrians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns about job losses and rising crime were lower than before, and the COVID-19 pandemic had strengthened solidarity and neighborly ties between the two groups, he said.

“This can be explained by the trend towards normalization which has created a habit in Turkish society regarding the presence of Syrians, while the pandemic has also shifted social priorities towards the goal of making ends meet,” said Erdogan at Arab News.

Around 80% of Turks said they provided money or other forms of assistance to Syrians during the pandemic.

But Turks living in border towns with a high density of Syrian refugees were less positive, saying they saw them as a permanent source of trouble.

There remains a misunderstanding about how Syrians generate income, with most Turks saying refugees depend on aid from the Turkish state. But those financially supported by an EU-funded aid program make up only around 44% of the general Syrian population in Turkey.

While concerns remain about deteriorating public services, loss of jobs, rising crime and corruption, the proportion of Turks who said they had suffered personal harm from Syrians in the past five years was 11%.

“When I conducted a field study in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, Turkish residents said they were hurt by the presence of Syrians because they spoke loudly at night and did not sleep. at the right time,” Erdogan said.

“Turks are more likely to view Syrians through the prism of identity concerns.

According to the report, 55% of Turks are against Syrians opening their own business, saying it would generate unfair competition.

A total of 77% of Turks said they did not think Syrians had any cultural similarities with Turks. But Syrians consider themselves socially very close to Turks, according to the report.

Turkey is home to around 3.7 million Syrians under temporary protection, representing around 5% of Turkey’s population. Many of them said they were not settled in the country.

In the latest report, the proportion of refugees saying they had no plans to return to Syria was 77.8%, down from 51.8% in 2019 and 16.7% in 2017.

Similarly, 90% of Turks surveyed said they believed at least half of Syrians would stay in Turkey.

Asked where Syrians should live, 85% of Turkish respondents suggested that they be accommodated in camps, safe areas or designated towns instead of integrating into local communities.

“Turks prefer an isolated way of life for Syrians in Turkey,” Erdogan said.

While Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu recently announced that the country had granted citizenship status to more than 193,000 Syrian refugees, 71% of Turks polled said they were against granting citizenship. citizenship to Syrians, while around 17% said that Syrian children should not receive an education. .

A total of 46% of Syrians said they had been integrated into Turkish society but would prefer temporary protected status to citizenship so as not to lose their benefits under EU support programs. The survey also showed that at least one member of every Syrian family could speak Turkish.

More than 88% of Syrians surveyed said they had not encountered any problems accessing healthcare services during the pandemic, but 64% said it had had a negative impact on their financial situation.

The study also found that there had been an increase in the proportion of Syrians moving to a third country to 49% in 2020, from 34% in 2019 and 23% in 2017.

Despite the high proportion of Turks saying they have reached out to Syrians during the pandemic, 67% of Syrians surveyed said society’s perception of them had not changed since the health crisis.

In its recommendations, the report states that Turkey’s policies towards Syrians that are based on temporary character should be reviewed, as the establishment of a peaceful Syria remains an unlikely prospect in the short to medium term.

He also said more needs to be done to find viable employment for Syrians.

“Agriculture, livestock and the industrial sector all offer opportunities for job creation,” he said.

He added that civil society should take on a greater role in helping with integration and that a financial support program should be developed to enable local authorities to help Syrians living within their jurisdiction.

He also said the international community should share responsibility for providing financial support and resettlement options to Syrians.