Syrians in Turkey suffer low paid, gruelling labour

Syrians in Turkey suffer low paid, gruelling labour
A UN investigation has found that almost all Syrian refugees in Turkey are employed informally in 'low-quality, low-paid' work.
3 min read
17 December, 2015
Almost all Syrians in Turkey are working informally in low-quality, low-paid jobs [Anadolu]
Syrian refugees in Turkey are almost exclusively working in "low-quality, low-paid" jobs, the United Nations has said.

Most of Turkey's 2.2 million Syrian refugees fleeing war in Syria are working  but the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said their conditions must be improved.

"We can say almost all Syrians in Turkey are working informally in low-quality, low-paid jobs," Numan Ozcan, the director of the ILO office in Turkey, told AFP.

He said the temporary protection status granted to Syrian refugees in Turkey is not the same as a residency permit.

This means that they cannot apply for a permit to work legally.

Ozcan added that only a tiny number of the Syrians in Turkey had work permits.

One example for the terrible working conditions most Syrians endure was witnessed in the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa.

A quarter of the population is now Syrian and 27 percent of  businesses employ Syrians. One third of these workers get paid below the national minimum wage.

Ozcan said with so many Syrians working informally and for low wages leads to negative impacts both for the economy and the local labour market.

"It is leading to unfair competition between enterprises and workers themselves are deprived of any protection."

He said the ILO was working with the Ankara to produce new regulations on this issue.

A November report by the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TISK) found that at least 300,000 Syrians are working in the country.

The number of "child labourers" among them is quite high.

Syrian children below the age of 18 are more likely to find a job compared to adults, especially in border regions.
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"The state is still lacking a strategy for Syrians," Murat Erdogan, author of the TISK report and director of the Migration and Politics Research Centre at Ankara's Hacettepe University, told AFP.

He said Syrians should be seen as permanent residents.

"We are far from tent-and-blanket issues. Syrians need to be employed formally in the labour market."

'Children forced on to streets'

The primary concern for many Syrian refugees in Turkey is to survive and foces children into labour.

"We have seen many families saying they cannot send their children their school because they need their children to work to make a living for the family," Philippe Duamelle, Turkey representative for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), told AFP.

"Syrian families want nothing else and nothing more than what any families around the world want," he said.

What most Syrians fleeing bombing in Syria and fighting in border regions is the safety that Turkey offers, but there are still massive improvements to be made to the lives of refugees there. 

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP that there was not going to be a single change to its visa policies for Syrians.

They are allowed to remain in Turkey visa-free for stays up to 90 days within a six-month period, and has made the country probably the best option for Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Ankara made the announcement just hours after Syria said it would only allow Turks to enter if they carried a valid visa.

This reverses a six-year agreement with Ankara that allowed visa-free travel for citizens between the two countries.

"The Syrian government, in virtue of the principles of reciprocity and national sovereignty, decided to refuse entry to Syria for Turkish citizens without visas," a ministry statement said.

"The Turkish government is responsible for the consequences (of this decision) on the ties between the Syrian and Turkish peoples," added the statement, published by state news agency SANA.

Turkey has become a leading backer of the Syrian opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the regime accuses Ankara of supporting "terrorist groups".