Syrian refugees in Turkey struggle to make ends meet

West promises more aid for Syrian crisis but shuts out refugees

ISTANBUL – Nineteen-year-old G.M. is unemployed, and on his own – unable to return home to Syria or even to leave Turkey. “I'm absolutely alone,” he told The Media Line.


He left behind his parents and home in a Damascus suburb nine months ago, escaping a requirement he serve in Syria's army. He had no future. The war had devastated his neighborhood and prevented him from graduating high school. The fighting showed no sign of ending. “There are snipers and bombs and rockets every day,” G.M. said.


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But here in Istanbul, where he stays with an American friend, his future also seems limited. “It's so hard to find a job,” he said. “I speak English and Turkish, and I'm not finding a job at all.”


No country has granted him a visa to leave Turkey where his options for work have dwindled, and he has been unable to find refugee resettlement protection. “I went to the American embassy, and they said they couldn't do anything,” he said. “I went to the UN (United Nations) and they say 'the door is closed.' There is nothing from the UN to the Syrian people.”


G.M. says his story is not unique, with countless other Syrians facing similar troubles. The latest figures from the United Nations say there are more than 400,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and the country has been struggling to accommodate them.


The growing number of refugees comes as the US and other countries pledge more money to help Syrian rebels fight embattled President Bashar Al-Assad and cope with the effects of a lengthy civil war. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama pledged an additional $195 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total US contribution to the Syrian crisis to more than $1 billion.


The war has killed more than 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the UN says nearly two million Syrians have fled the country. At the same time, refugees say they are being shut out of opportunities to resettle in the West, away from overflowing refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.


Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the US has only resettled 110 Syrian refugees, according to data from the State Department. Through the end of this fiscal year, the US is “unlikely to see a significant uptick” in refugee admissions, Deborah Lee, a spokesperson for the State Department, told The Media Line.


Canada admitted 16 Syrian refugees since 2011, but would not provide data for 2012 and 2013. However, the country will resettle 200 “extremely vulnerable” Syrian refugees this year and in 2014, the country's Citizenship and Immigration Spokesperson Sylvie Tremblay told The Media Line.


Tremblay points to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees—the international agency tasked with registering refugees around the world, and referring them to countries for resettlement. "UNHCR has not begun a large-scale formal refugee process for the displaced population,” Tremblay said.


An agency spokesman, Peter Kessler, acknowledges “much more needs to be done.”


“People can't be expected to live for multiple winters, or multiple summers in tents,” he said.


However, Kessler told The Media Line, UNHCR remains focused on providing basic protection and humanitarian assistance for Syrians. The refugee resettlement admissions process can be lengthy, taking months of security and background checks on applicants, and can often be unsuccessful.


“The resettlement of Syrian refugees is not meant to be a way to provide durable solutions for the vast majority of refugees, but to help UNHCR meet some very specific needs of the most vulnerable,” Kessler said.


For G.M., a young, healthy, single man—help seems far off. He, and many other Syrians want the international community to do more, as their country falls deeper into chaos, and they remain stranded on the outside. “They are not doing anything, anything at all,” he said angrily.


Article written by Steve Dorsey


Reprinted with permission from The Media Line



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פרסום ראשון: 08.15.13, 21:09
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