Our refugee problem, brutal facts and hopeful beginnings - KEMAL ÖZTÜRK

Our refugee problem, brutal facts and hopeful beginnings

Today Turkey has been experiencing the severest refugee problem, which has been the most important problem in the world.

Last week Gaziantep University, Independent Academicians Organization and BEKAM organized a symposium to discuss the immigration issue with all its aspects. I attended it as a speaker but I learned more.

What I learned include some brutal facts and some hopeful beginnings.

Here are some of the notes that I took during the two days, without any comments.

2 million of the refugees will not go back

• There are almost 3 million refugees in Turkey. According to world statistics, 70 percent of them will not go back to their country even if the problems there are solved. This means 2 million refugees will live in Turkey afterward.

• Only 10 percent of these people live in the camps; the rest of them moved to the cities and have been living in houses.

• Unfortunately, there are no concrete records on how many refugees there are in Turkey, what countries they came from, what their skills are.

Unregistered refugees cause serious security problems at the same time.

The aid period is over, the integration period should start.

• The terms as "refugee, immigrant and asylum seeker" have been used to refer to these people. This causes a chaos that will affect their legal and international status.

• The rate of literacy among the refugees in Turkey is 50 percent, whereas it is 90 percent in Germany. Western countries are taking the qualified and young refugees who have professions from Turkey for themselves. That is why there are hundreds of offices of more than 60 countries in different areas in Gaziantep. It can't be said that their activities are being controlled.

• Issuing work permits for refugees is a very good decision, but it is a late decision. The most qualified manpower went to the West. Quitting the policies based on food and sheltering immediately, a model based on training and integration should be started.

1 million children need training

• It is assumed that 55 percent of the refugees consist of a young population of school age. Very few of them have been educated. Bülbülzade Organization, by opening 21 schools in Turkey and 12 in Syria, with a total of 33 schools, has been continuing a good example of training activities. Almost 20,000 children have been trained there. But at least 1 million children need education.

• Hacettepe University Center for Immigration Research has been carrying out successful studies. Associate Professor Murat Erdoğan has been obtaining data from the United Nations in order to form statistics. And the United Nations obtains data from the Turkish Ministry of Interior. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cannot directly collect data within Turkey, however; nobody wants to provide data. Turkey has no refugee data bank.

• A ministry that is totally responsible for the training, accommodation, social integration, naturalization, legal status, etc. of refugees in Turkey still could not be determined. Everything is all over the place and is carried out at different data banks.

An Immigration and Naturalization Ministry should be established

• In order to achieve coordination, six months ago, the prime ministry established a chief advisory responsible for immigration and humanitarian aid. Murtaza Yetiş, who has been assigned and his team with a limited number are quite diligent, idealistic and they know what to do. But it is impossible for them to solve the problem with this model. Budget, staff, physical facilities, bureaucratic status, the weakness of sanction power are the obstacles on the way to solving such a big problem. Just as the Office of Public Diplomacy, it is possible that this too will get caught in a bottleneck in the bureaucratic system.

• Turkey has to establish a ministry to deal with the issues of immigration and immigrants now, similar to those in Germany, France and the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.


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