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Syrian Refugees in Turkey
The war in Syria is a long-standing conflict with severe consequences. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions are still affected by the violence. Nearly 6.5 million people are displaced within Syria, while another 4.5 million have fled Syria since the conflict began. Turkey has received the largest number of refugees, a vast majority requiring medical attention and financial assistance. Here are five facts about the health of Syrian refugees in Turkey and what is being done to help them.

5 Facts About the Health of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

  1. Mental health services are in huge demand. Refugees of all ages are at a higher risk of common mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety PTSD. Dr. Jalal Nofel is a psychiatrist based at the Relief International Mental Health Center and has worked directly with a multitude of refugees. In an interview, Dr. Nofel noted the most frequently treated illness is PTSD. He noted that many “have lost family members and they face financial problems and a vague future.” Six mental health centers span the country, offering a variety of treatments from therapy and medications.
  2. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are in need of prosthetics. According to Relief International, 1.5 million refugees have permanent impairments and over 80,000 of those have lost limbs. Just a mile from the Syrian border resides the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs (NSPPL), which specializes in building prosthetics and providing physical therapy. This center sees about 10 patients per day and creates nearly 500 personalized prosthetics a year. NSPPL is just the beginning for prosthetic care, however. With 12 centers across Turkey, 30,450 patients were treated by Relief International in 2018.
  3. Refugees face struggles in regards to nutrition and sanitation. 30-40% of hospitalized patients are classified as malnourished and these numbers rapidly increase in the elderly population. Clean water is also scarce for Syrian refugees. In an article from the Human Rights Watch, an aid worker disclosed that water trucking for camps along the Syria/Turkey border only provides for about 50% of the population. The quality of this water is also lower than pumped water.
  4. Diseases and epidemics, both chronic and viral, plague the population. According to a study by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, not only are refugees fighting tuberculosis, leishmaniasis and brucellosis, but also gastrointestinal diseases and bacterial meningitis. COVID-19 has also increasingly made life difficult for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as most reside in dense living spaces which enables a rapid spread of the virus. The global pandemic has also had an effect on refugees’ role in the Turkish economy. According to a survey, about 69% of refugees have reported unemployment or suspension of business activity.
  5. Turkey is working to enable refugee recovery. In 2014, the country established a new ID system and temporary protection system, which gave legal immigrants access to the free healthcare system. Although these medical services are free, medicine is not always free. Most refugees are forced to forfeit a large portion of their limited income for medicine. To help further improve healthcare in Turkey, the WHO is working with local NGOs to train medical professionals to deal with the influx of patients.

As more media attention is given to this humanitarian crisis, the sooner aid and a sense of peace can be bestowed to these displaced people. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize the health of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in Turkey Create JobsToday, there are three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, more than there are in all other European countries combined. Despite xenophobic fears that Syrians are a drain on Turkish resources, the Turkish government spends less than one percent of GDP per year on refugees. Furthermore, economists estimate that Syrians have invested between $1 billion and $1.5 billion into Turkey thus far.

Globally, migrants compose only 3.4 percent of the worldwide population but add 10 percent to the overall GDP. In the U.S., the average refugee has a positive net fiscal effect after eight years of residency. Additionally, these refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they are awarded in benefits after 20 years of residency. This indicates that government assistance to refugees can be an investment in future profits.

According to research conducted by Building Markets, Syrian refugees in Turkey have invested almost $334 million into 6,033 formal companies since 2011. There are an estimated 10,000 formal and informal Syrian-owned businesses in Turkey. Syrian business owners employ an average of 9.4 people, with most employees coming from prior jobs in the informal sector.

Most Syrian business owners in Turkey plan on expanding. Approximately 55 percent have indicated that they intend to hire additional employees over the next year. Over the next few years, owners plan to add an average of 8.2 jobs to their companies.

Syrian refugee business owners intend to stay in Turkey. Around 39 percent plan to open a second business in Turkey. In the event of stabilization in Syria, 76 percent would keep their Turkish businesses while also expanding operations to Syria.

About 40 percent of surveyed Syrian business owners cited a language barrier as the biggest challenge facing their business. Lessening this inhibitor by conducting business in both Turkish and Arabic could encourage Syrian business expansion and create additional jobs.

Better integration of Syrian refugees into Turkey’s formal economy could further increase existing economic benefits. Out of the three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, only about 14,000 had work visas in January 2017. Work visas can only be obtained by companies, not individual employees, and employers are then required to pay monthly Social Security for each registered worker. The responsibility should shift from companies to employees who are more incentivized to pursue registration.

Turkey’s unemployment rate is 10.8 percent. Some fear that expediting entry to the formal labor market for refugees will displace Turkish workers. However, according to research on refugees conducted by the Center for Global Development (CGD), when native workers are displaced by refugee labor competition, they end up in higher-paying jobs. The native labor force has a competitive advantage as they possess language proficiency and job skills that are valued in their domestic market. The CGD found that displaced native workers receive, on average, a three percent salary increase at their new jobs.

The CGD concluded that the most important determining factor in the economic effect of a refugee influx is how quickly arriving refugees enter the domestic labor market and begin producing new tax revenues.

Ultimately, encouraging total integration of the Syrian refugees in Turkey into the formal sector could benefit the Turkish economy by creating new jobs and additional tax revenues. The positive fiscal payoff could grow with the mitigation of existing regulatory and cultural barriers.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr