How must we approach the issue of migration in Turkey? - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

How must we approach the issue of migration in Turkey?

Turkey is situated in a strategic region nestled between Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Due to this geographical location, when fleeing abroad from countries in these regions that are currently experiencing civil wars, turmoil and political crises, Turkey has recently become both a transit country for asylum seekers to Europe and a destination for irregular migration.

In recent days, the issue of Syrians who have been in Turkey for nearly 10 years and irregular migration from Afghanistan in recent days has become a hot-button topic on the political agenda.

There are two different views on irregular migration. First off, it’s not up for debate that Syrians will face persecution in their country due to the raging war, and therefore sending them back would constitute a problem in terms of endangering their lives. In addition, it is widely believed that Syrians who settled in the country over the past years and have taken up  jobs that do not require qualifications in Turkey's economy have filled an important gap and thus make significant contributions to the economy.

In addition, providing international protection to those who took refuge in the country is seen as the most basic human right.

The other view is that Syrians should be sent back for political reasons, and we see that a violent discriminatory and racist discourse is intensifying with every passing day. In particular, they claim that irregular migrants are economically benefiting from the country's GDP, that is, that they have share of the cake and that foreigner employment has had a negative impact on the country.

With these allegations, we can see that they have developed a populist political discourse. The recent statement of Bolu’s mayor that Syrians’ water bills will be increased tenfold, demonstrates a completely different dimension of this discrimination that Syrians and other immigrants are facing in the country.

The interesting thing is that while political parties that identify as “leftist” or “social democrats” all over the world tend to be more sensitive towards citizens from foreign countries, asylum seekers and irregular immigrants, they also tend to be more open about  accepting foreigners into the country, it is a completely different paradigm that we are experiencing in the opposite situation.

The need for empathy

There is a need for empathy towards foreign nationals who are present in the country not of their own volition. In addition, there’s no denying the fact that providing international protection to those who sought refuge in our country is a most basic human right.

Therefore, it is unacceptable to send all Syrians back before the current situation in Syria improves and safe zones are established. In any case, we must not overlook the fact that there is a law on the protection of foreigners in Turkey and legal regulations at international standards.

We call it empathy. Because one must not forget that there are millions of Turks who live abroad for various reasons.

Immigration is one of the most pressing issues in places such as the U.S., the EU, Turkey and many other countries across the globe. In the U.S., immigrants were the main scapegoats of Trump's election propaganda , and when Trump was elected president, he built a giant wall at the border to prevent irregular immigration from Mexico, but Washington was still unable to solve the problem or stem the tide of migration on its southern borders.

Therefore, since large waves of migration are a fact of life in the region where Turkey is situated, it is time to talk about what should be done before new waves are at our doorstep, to study the contributions of immigrants to the economy, and to conduct serious research with the data shared by various institutions.


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