April 29 marks the tenth anniversary of the day when a group of 250 Syrians for the first time entered Turkey.
Since then, the number of Syrians living in Turkey has swelled to around 3.8 million, Murat Erdogan, the director of Migration and Integration Research Center at the Istanbul-based Turkish-German University, told Anadolu Agency.
On Thursday, a virtual meeting on Syrians living in Turkey organized by UNESCO will mark the occasion.
During the meeting, Erdogan will unveil a report on Turkish media and how Turkish news outlets and social media covered the Syrian refugee influx in the country by focusing on eight cases — starting with the day when the body of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi washed ashore in 2015, making headlines worldwide and becoming a symbol of the refugee crisis from the war in Syria.
Despite various problems, Erdogan said: “When we look back on these 10 years, around 3.8 million Syrians which is 5 percent of Turkey’s population, live in peace in Turkey.”
According to Erdogan, this was both a success for Syrians and the Turkish society “because living together is not easy in today’s world.”
Noting that integration policies worldwide on refugees are not easily implemented, Erdogan said that Turkey, perhaps for the first time in human history, implemented so many refugee-friendly policies.
10 years on
Although historically Turkey is open to migration, he said, the country has never witnessed such a big migration wave.
Highlighting the difference between refugees and asylum seekers, Erdogan said that during the migration process both the host country and the person ready to go to another country are prepared for the relocation.
“When you decide to go to Germany or Canada as an immigrant, you make your application and go. But this is not the case in the situation of being a refugee. And managing this is much more difficult,” he added.
It is an “emergency” situation, Erdogan said. “Everything is difficult,” he stressed.
Noting that there are 270 million migrants in the world, Erdogan said: “While these migrants live in the rich countries of the world and support them, only 15 of 100 refugees can go to developed countries.”
“Because no country in the world wants uncontrolled human mobility as they see it as a threat to their own security,” he added.
“Turkey did not only accept migrants in the last five years, but also received refugees. And the time management of this is both difficult for the state and the society.”
Erdogan explained what Turkey has done in the last 10 years. “In the beginning, when this crisis began, everyone expected that this process would take a very short time and people would return home.”
Moving to cities
That is why when Syrians came to Turkey, they first lived in the border region. Turkey built a total of 26 camps for them, he said.
A total of 250,000 people were settled in camps, he explained, adding with time Turkey had to let people live outside of the camps.
Now, most of the camps have been evacuated, he said. “Only 58,000 people are currently staying in the camps. The rest are living together with the Turkish society.”
The situation in Syria has completely changed since 2013, especially with the stepping in of the terrorist group Daesh/ISIS, he added.
The powers that wanted to take down Syrian regime head Bashar Al-Asad began supporting him following the emergence of Daesh/ISIS. “And the number of people fleeing their country increased,” he added.
“While Turkey could say we can only take up to 100,000 initially, it suddenly witnessed millions of refugees and is currently hosting the most refugees in the world since 2014,” he said.
As of 2013, these refugees integrated with the Turkish society, Erdogan said.
“These people started to share the same places, same streets, same cities with Turkish society. A symbiosis for which we were not prepared had to begin.”
“In this sense, I think … solidarity of Turkish society has been realized at an extraordinary level,” he said.
“Although the Turkish community is uncomfortable with the existence of Syrians and wants them to return home, being able to live together is an element that should be praised in itself.”