Turkey has taken in 3.6 million Syrian refugees in recent years. The price is high: not only for the Turkish population, but also for the government. President Erdogan tries with all his might to save what can be saved.
He needs to think a lot. It is also quite a difficult question in these circumstances.
Hm. If he says “yes”, the next question is: why do you want to leave? If he says “no,” and they find out he said “no,” he may have to go back to Syria.
“It’s just here,” says Mohamed (20), but then carefully. And then he tells how he fled with his father and mother seven years ago from the Syrian city of Aleppo to Turkey. They ended up in Konya. They were happy in the beginning. There was no more war, they could rent a house and there was even work for his father and later also for Mohamed himself.
Yet he is now standing here, again with his father and mother and dozens of others, on the verge of Vatan Boulevard, in the middle of vast Istanbul. Someone had heard from someone else that there might be a bus from this place tomorrow to the border with Greece. The Turks are happy that he is leaving, and Mohamed also: “We want a better life.”
How different it was in 2011 and the next few years. When the war in Syria raged in full force, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spread his arms and said, “Come here, you are our guests.” Was it his good heart that spoke here? Maybe, but it was certainly also political calculation. “Call it cynicism,” says Ercüment Akdeniz, journalist for the independent left-wing newspaper Evrensel. “He thought the Syrian regime would fall soon. All those refugees would certainly support him if he would help a good government in power. And as the war continued, he wanted to use the Syrians as a pretext to get involved in the struggle. Not only has Turkey been preoccupied with pieces of land on the border for a long time, but also in a way to tackle the Kurds there. ”
If we look back, we quickly see where things went wrong. Many more people came than expected; the war is still raging; the Turkish economy is faltering; Erdogan’s popularity is declining every month. And in the meantime, almost 4 million people have been injected into society, as Özgür Aktütün says. She works for Göcmen Dayanisma Dernegi, an organization that helps migrants find their way in Turkey.
“We should have prepared better,” she says. “The pressure on society has become too great.” Recent figures speak volumes: 3.7 million refugees from Syria, almost half of them children; a very small part is in camps, the rest is divided between the cities. “The smaller cities in particular cannot handle the pressure. There is no work, no money, not enough housing … And there are all those Syrians who take jobs and houses and get all kinds of benefits from the government. At least, that’s what people think. It is not like that. But it does explain the mood that prevails here. “