Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable: Fostering the Successful Integration of Syrian Refugees in Europe and Turkey

26. Sep 2017
Brussels, Belgium
Migration to the economic centers of Europe is a well-known societal challenge since almost 60 years. European societies and state structures had to develop strategies of integration and receptiveness of migrants. In recent years, however, Turkey had to learn as well how to cope with the influx of approx. 3 mill. refugees and migrants, predominantly coming from civil war-stricken Syria. As much as societies in Europe, Turkey had to accept the fact that those who came will not be “guests”, but (potentially) future citizens of Turkey. Integration strategies have to be developed. Society and state institutions have to be prepared for a situation unknown to Turkey and its citizens so far. Things are certainly far from perfect for refugees in Turkey. They face with various legal and socio-economic problems. Moreover, refugees are regularly used by the AKP government as a political leverage against the EU. Having said that, Turkey is certainly a unique country in terms of refugees and there are many good practices and expertise as well. With this event, we aim to exchange the good practices and expertise of Turkey and EU which can be useful for the integration of Syrian refugees.

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    ELF hosted a panel entitled “Fostering the Successful Integration of Syrian Refugees in Europe and Turkey” on 26 September 2017. The panel session started with Senior Policy Advisor Demir Murat Seyrek’s moderation from European Foundation for Democracy. The panelists of the session were Başak Yavcan, Erdem Vardar, Bassam Al-Kuwatlı and John Duhig.

    The main aim was of the panel was to maintain the successful integration of migrants in Turkey and Europe and to find new solution approach to facilitate to manage the refugee crisis by giving examples from European countries and Turkey. More than 3,5 million migrants and refugees crossed by land and sea into Turkey in 2011 and a million migrants into Europe in 2015.

    While the European countries that accept a small number of refugees managed well the refugee crisis, the integration is
    not yet at the desired level in countries like Turkey and Germany that are trying to carry this great burden alone. The two main reasons for this issue are the acceptance of the refugees as ‘guests’ and the size of the number of migrants. Some of the other reasons for Turkey are the country’s weaknesses and deficiencies in the political, social, cultural and educational environment, as well as the unreadiness for the number of the influx of refugees socially and especially economically. It should not be underestimated that the European Union monetary aid is ineffective and inadequate in
    the long-term, that’s why a different, also effective collaborations are needed in today's situation.

    In consideration of integration in Europe, we see that there is a huge lack of unity, which causes injustice and crisis in sharing responsibilities for refugee movement. While European countries with a low number of refugees are managing the crisis faster and systematically, the integration process in countries whose responsibilities are higher than those of other countries continue very slowly and irregularly because of the language problems, the huge problem of employment, and the growing xenophobia in some segments in society after the rising of the
    populism in politics.

    As a solution proposal to facilitate integration, it is important to consider to match migrants skills to the job in the employment process, to access regular mental health issues and also to create equal access to a quality education, to
    collaborate between NGOs, community, charities, and state. At the same time, countries need to examine each other's integration models and create a realizable new model for their own country.

  • Report

    Turkey is the largest refugee-hosting state in the world and had to learn in recent years how to cope with 3 million refugees and migrants, predominantly coming from civil war-stricken Syria.There are dozens of programs implemented by the Turkish government, Turkish NGOs, international NGOs and international organizations. The EU is also one of the key actors in line with the EU-Turkey migration deal.

    Europe and Turkey had to accept the fact that those who came will not be ‘guest’, but ‘potentially’ future citizens of their states. In consideration of refugees in Turkey, things are certainly far from perfect. They face various legal and socioeconomic problems. That’s why adaptation strategies have to be developed and also society and
    state institutions have to be prepared for this unexpected situation in Turkey. So, Turkey is certainly a unique country in terms of refugees. With this event, we aimed to share and exchange of good practices and expertise, which can be useful for the integration of Syrian refugees in the EU member states and Turkey.


    The main focus of the meeting was to encourage the successful integration of Syrian refugees in Europe and Turkey into the society and to develop effective practices between Turkey and the European Union by discussing on strengths and weaknesses in Turkish political system with regard to present challenges deriving from refugees and migrants.
    The discussion was held on the basis of this subject and expert speakers in their fields shared their experiences and knowledge on these issues and made various interpretations.

    All of the speakers agreed on the problem of Syrian population density in Turkey although they accept the good practices done by the Turkish government. As they were not ready to deal with that much people, still it is accepted that Turkish government did a good job, especially for the basic humanitarian needs of the refugees. It has been noted that social possibilities should also be mentioned not only politic opportunities. Whatever the top management decides, it was said that the biggest job here belongs to the local governments. However, local governments always have
    to systematically work and should not try to progress only by personal efforts.


    When it comes to the problematic areas, Başak Yavçan underlined the language issue. She stated that language difference causes various problems in every area of society and make the adaptation into the society more difficult. She also highlighted that this issue directly affects the other issues like entering the labor market and integration into the education system. 50% of immigrants coming to Turkey are illiterate, so their motivation for sending their children to the school is very low and their qualifications are also at the same level. For this reason, she said it should be emphasized that it is necessary a sustainable formal education and new public education centers have to be built for the parents. In consideration of education system, there are two different educational options for Syrian children, including the standard Turkish schools -providing Turkish education within the scope of Turkish curriculum in Turkey and temporary education centers in Arabic, controlled by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Turkey. The preference of Arabic education centers by the Syrians resulted in dualism in the education
    system and makes it difficult for children to adapt among their peers.

    John Duhig gave two examples from Denmark and Netherland for solving of the language problem and employment. He said, after recognizing that language problem is a huge barrier, the state has taken a different path to solving this problem. Denmark has indicated that Syrians can enter the labor market if they pass the language test at the end of a certain period of time and state gave money to the refugees instead of direct language training and gave them the freedom to spend the money within their needs so that they were encouraged to use the aid for language
    learning and integration purposes.In consideration of employment, as the Syrians in Turkey are assessed within the scope of temporary protection, they do not have work permits, but they are illegally employed with low wages and without insurance. This creates a competition between Turks and Syrians to find a job and in the Turkish society, which already has divisions within itself, it was pointed out that these developments may cause new divisions on an ethnic and racial basis. Ms. Duhig also noted that unlike the situation in Turkey, in the Netherlands, people are directed to certain areas in the direction of their talents and it is easier for them to enter the labor market in Europe than in Turkey.However, refugee children who leave their schools early, mostly start to work at a young age with very low wages to help their families. In this context, child labor rates are critically high in Turkey and it must be avoided.

    In consideration of NGOs, Bassam Al-Kuwatlı stated that the biggest difficulty was caused by bureaucracy and funding. He emphasized that mostly, in problem solving, every NGOs, every individual effort, and every state are acting alone, and the questions about ‘What the migrants want and what they need?’ are not asked their interlocutors, that’s why most of the work ends without reaching the end, and going back and making same mistakes. He also added that it is
    necessary to work together in harmony and especially with refugees and highlighted that the main the reason of the integration crisis that Turkey and Europe have experienced in the refugee crisis is the dilemma on whether the Syrian crisis is temporary or not.

    Erdem Vardar responded to criticism that Turkey can not manage the crisis well by emphasizing that Turkey is trying to help as much as possible under the circumstances of the country and however there are still problems and troubles, but they are not dangerous dimensions. He also implied that the criticisms against Turkey have been made without considering the current situation of the country and agenda items such as terrorism, the coup attempt, economic problems,
    system change problems and uncertainties make it difficult to focus fully on the refugee problem. He also added that the number of accepted immigrants was much lower in EU than in Turkey, so the European countries were able to move more comfortable and control the progress easier.

    At the end of the discussion, the audience was informed about the situation in Turkey. Thanks to the European perspective given by one of the speakers, it was compared the situation in different European countries. It was also agreed that the responsibility and burden should be shared by all of the world, not only by the countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon or Germany.

    In conclusion, main speakers noted at this point that EU should build more partnerships with Turkey, contribute to the creating of new employment areas in Turkey or help reduce the costs by contributing to the growth of Turkey economy. Also, they stated that Turkey should analyze the methods of other countries well and create its own model because the country's conditions are very different from each other and that’s why importing the model from abroad does not have a
    reasonable meaning.

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