Syrian refugees get to work in Turkey

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Article Summary
The Turkish government is working on regulations to allow Syrians living outside refugee camps to work legally with a residency permit.

For almost three years now, Turkey has been home to Syrians fleeing the war in their country. Initially, most Syrians lived in shelter centers. But soon, many left the centers and sought livelihood in the cities.

According to the Prime Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Coordination Office, more than 1.1 million Syrians are present today in Turkey: About 900,000 of them live in cities across the country, while some 219,000 remain in shelter centers.

Hard life outside the camps

Various efforts are being made for Syrians in camps.The refugees receive important services, from health care and education to spaces for sports and worship. The most populous shelter center is in Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, where 25,530 Syrians are accommodated, followed by Elbeyli in Kilis with 23,730 people and Ceylanpinar, again in Sanliurfa, with 20,197 people.

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The real problem, however, seems to be the Syrians outside camps. Those people are not only deprived from the services in the shelter centers, but are often mistreated by some segments of Turkish society. Moreover, they are faced with the threat of poverty and have nothing to lose, which often drags them into very difficult situations in daily life. In contrast with the wide range of services provided to Syrians in the shelter centers, the only service for those outside the camps is an effort to have them registered.

New regulation in the pipeline

The Syrians living in camps are unable to apply for work permits because they lack residence papers. So, they can take jobs only inside the camps. The situation of Syrians outside the camps, however, is quite different. Thousands of them have acquired biometric IDs. Yet, having a biometric ID is not enough to apply for a work permit, either. So, a bylaw has to be issued by the Council of Ministers to set the criteria and procedures for the employment of those people.

The Syrians in Turkey fall under the scope of “temporary protection” under Law Number 6458. A bylaw is needed to outline the rights of people with this status. Such a bylaw would enable Syrians to apply for work permits. The arrangement would be of huge importance, for it would fix not only working criteria and procedures, but would also determine all their rights in the country. The work on the issue has reached its final stage. The bylaw is expected any time now.

Lower premiums for Syrians

Under Labor Ministry plans, different rules will be applied to the employment of Syrians in terms of social security premiums. Accordingly, employers would pay 2% of premiums for Syrians with work permits, meaning they would contribute only to the work accidents and occupational illness insurance. The insurance premiums that Turkish employers normally pay constitute up to 32.5% of employees’ monthly earnings. Syrians who obtain working permits are expected to start working in the provinces where they reside. The underlying idea is to curb the ongoing migration to big cities.

Big contrast

Back on Oct. 12, 2012, the Interior Ministry issued Circular No. 59, which extended the maximum duration of residence permits from five months to one year. That decision resolves the work permit problem for Syrian nationals who have a residence permit.

While Syrians with residence permits can now apply for work permits, people in the “temporary protection” category are barred from getting residence permits, meaning they cannot apply for work permits, as well. Therefore, the bylaw on the rights of people under “temporary protection” is urgently needed.

Under Turkish law, foreigners with residence permits of more than six months are entitled to apply for work permits. The applications are approved if the applicant’s qualifications and prospective employer meet the criteria set by the Labor Ministry.

Doing away with criteria

To resolve this problem, the Labor Ministry is planning an arrangement under which Syrians who had previously obtained six-month residence permits and those who hold one-year residence permits would be entitled to work permits. If the arrangement materializes, Turkish employers would be able to legally employ about 1 million Syrians. Many Syrians are already working in the textile sector in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces.

Exemptions likely to be applied

According to the sources, the prospective bylaw would enable Syrians with residence permits to apply to the Labor Ministry for work permits. The ministry, in turn, would be entitled to do away with existing criteria in issuing work permits. This suggests that a loose approach is likely to be adopted with respect to work permits, using exemptions on geographical regions, sectors and occupations. Work permits to Syrians are likely to be issued without looking at whether a given applicant meets the criteria for a given job or profession. Gaziantep, for instance, could become one of the regions where work permits are granted through exemptions, without considering the applicant’s eligibility for the job. Similarly, occupational or sectorial exemptions could also be applied directly by the Labor Ministry’s authority.

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Found in: workforce, turkey, syrian refugees, labor market, jobs, employment, economy
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