About 120,000 of the Syrians who have fled to Turkey are living in Istanbul. With many of them taking shelter in tents and parks, the Syrians are under the spotlight for “beggary.” In various Istanbul neighborhoods, begging has provoked resentment and complaints. Azeri, Chechen and Bosnian immigrants are especially irked, complaining that the Syrians are taking away their jobs. The government is facing calls to draw up an employment policy for the Syrians.
'Sick and tired'
Istanbul’s Sirinevler neighborhood is one of the places where Syrian migrants live. The local headman, Galip Karayigit, says that about a thousand Syrians are living in the neighborhood, adding that local residents are annoyed by those who engage in begging and have begun to react. “I have received many complaints from the neighborhood folk. They are begging at the busiest traffic spots during rush hours. They are even attempting to grab bags from people’s hands,” Karayigit said. “In the beginning, everyone was taking food and material aid to the Syrians. After incidents of beggary and theft, the spirit of charity turned into indignation.”
Used by gangs
Karayigit claims the Syrian migrants are also being used by certain criminal gangs. “Beggary is a very lucrative business. Those people [Syrian beggars] are coming and going in cars. They are led by a team, which takes them to different spots on a rotating basis,” the headman said, adding he had sent a message to the governor on the issue.
Cheap labor force
Lezgin Akan from the Platform for Solidarity with Syrians, a civic group in Istanbul, confirms that unpleasant incidents have taken place in some neighborhoods, with several tents torched by unknown assailants in Sirinevler. “Especially in neighborhoods like Sirinevler and Gaziosmanpasa, where other immigrants are already living, illegal Azeri and Chechen workers faced the risk of losing their jobs when the Syrians arrived. This has provoked reactions. The government should draw up employment and residence policies for the Syrians, just as it has previously done for the people who came from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Expelling them or placing them in camps is not an appropriate measure,” Akan said.
Internet campaign reflects racism
“No to Syrians in Turkey” — a campaign launched on the popular website Eksi Sozluk [Sour Dictionary] — is seen as an online manifestation of racism against Syrian refugees in Turkey. Here are some of the arguments used in the campaign: “[Syrians] elicit antipathy because they are unqualified and are pushing up the crime rate in Turkey, while the government is giving them the money it withholds from its own citizens. Soon they may become Turkish citizens and vote in the elections, backing the Justice and Development Party. Moreover, theft is reportedly on the rise in provinces housing refugee camps. The government is now taking them in, but will be unable to send them back afterward.”
Similarly, a campaign titled “No to Syrian Youth in Sanliurfa” is underway on the petition site imzakampanyam.org. “Left unchecked, Syrian youth are creating trouble in almost every part of the city, which, unfortunately, has led to mistrust toward Syrians among the city folk,” the campaign announcement says.