Roundup: Turks' frustration with Syrian refugees grows significantly amid economic woes

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ANKARA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Turkey has generously granted hospitality to millions of Syrians fleeing a civil war, but now with economic turbulence rattling the country, negative public perceptions toward the refugees have grown significantly.

Syrians started to pour into Turkey after the hostilities broke out in 2011, for what was then a temporary arrangement. But now, over a decade later, their presence has turned into a permanent stay.

Turkey currently hosts 5.2 million migrants, of whom 3.7 million are Syrian refugees, according to a statement by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in November last year.

However, with the deterioration of the economy and high inflation in recent years, and a sharp currency decline in 2021, Turkish households have seen their living standards on a continuing downward trajectory.

In this context, many Turks have grown frustrated with Syrians as opinion polls have shown a stark decline in public support for hosting the refugees.

In late December last year, Turkish human rights groups said three Syrian factory workers were burned to death in their sleep in the western city of Izmir by a suspect apparently motivated by xenophobia.

"Syrians have become victims of hate speech as people believe that they are robbing them of their jobs in these difficult economic times," Metin Corabatir, a veteran expert on refugee issues, told Xinhua.

Corabatir, head of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration, explained that Syrians are in Turkey under temporary protection status and not as refugees, which prevents them from gaining basic rights in their host nation.

"Turkey has made large sacrifices for Syrians, but they also want basic rights such as the right to work. However, very few permits are delivered and a large majority work illegally without any social security protection," he said.

Turkey has invested a lot in its social cohesion policies to enable Syrians to integrate into society, but now under economic duress, funds are becoming a problem.

In the past three years, nearly half a million Syrians have been voluntarily sent back to areas in northern Syria invaded and controlled by the Turkish army for security reasons, according to official figures.

Mohammad, a 35-year-old former resident in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, provides for his family by working illegally in an auto repair shop in Turkey. He expressed fear about the changed public mood toward Syrians.

"People are unhappy with our presence. We feel it more as the Turks' economic situation deteriorates. They don't express it generally with violence but we hear about their displeasure," he told Xinhua, declining to reveal his surname.

In Turkey's capital Ankara, some residents expressed discontent toward the prolonged presence of Syrians.

"This has become a serious issue. Every day around 500 Syrian babies are born in Turkey, according to the press," said Turgay Cevik, a shop owner in the popular Tunali Hilmi Avenue.

"Turkey has economic problems of its own and cannot assume the burden of refugees anymore," he added.

Sefika Aygen, an employee in a cosmetics shop, related uncomfortable incidents to young Syrians in her neighbourhood.

"Most of them live peacefully but some young Syrian men who are unemployed are turning to violence more often, and police has to be called frequently to quell rows," she said.

Turkey deported two Syrians on Friday after a video of them insulting and threatening to rape Turkish women emerged on social media, the Turkish press reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey is unable to host more migrants, while Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, has promised to send Syrians back within two years if he assumes office in any possible early election before mid-2023. Enditem

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