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Turkey's Syrian refugees among hardest hit amid coronavirus pandemic

Some 4 million Syrians scattered across Turkey are among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout as most of them are unable to work due to restrictions and also cannot benefit from relief assistance.
A Syrian refugee man walks in Elbeyli refugee camp near the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis province, Turkey, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC118F65CE00
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Abdullah Ahmed and his family were living in Damascus before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war nine years ago. Fleeing the war, he and his family resettled in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir near the Syrian border. Following a few devastating years, the family gradually managed to get on their feet and rebuild their lives. Ahmed was admitted to the nursing school at a Diyarbakir university in 2011 and began working at an air conditioning repair service during weekends. He and his two siblings were the breadwinners of their family of eight until the novel coronavirus pandemic hit and turned their world upside down once again. 

Ahmed’s story illustrates the plight of some 4 million Syrians scattered across Turkey who are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic. Most of the refugees have been unable to work due to broad restrictions instituted because of COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout. Since most of the Syrian workers — estimated at more than 1 million — had been employed as unregistered laborers, they are unable to receive unemployment benefits from the government’s relief measures introduced to help workers in the formal economy. The pandemic has also affected their dreams of a better future, since distance learning is a challenge for most of them due to language barriers and a lack of resources.

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