Washington, D.C. – Turkish leaders publicly insist that the 4 million Syrian refugees now living in Turkey will return home, but privately they seem to be preparing for the likelihood that most will remain permanently, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
The issue is politically explosive in Turkey, and the Turkish government has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that it has begun to prepare for long-term integration of the refugees into Turkish society.
Whether by default or by design, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has begun to gradually implement a policy of integration. Encouraged to move into Turkish society, relatively few refugees remain in camps. Meanwhile, Turkey is closing Arabic-language schools as it prepares to move all Syrian students into the Turkish state school system.
The presence of the Syrian refugees is unpopular and could be an issue in March 31 nationwide local elections. Whatever the electoral outcome, however, Turkey is in a race against time to educate, employ, and socially integrate the refugees, the report finds. Integration is crucial to promoting social harmony and avoiding the development of a permanent underclass of disadvantaged Syrians. Turkey’s future stability may depend on it.
Read the report: “Turkey’s Refugee Dilemma: Tiptoeing Toward Integration” by Alan Makovsky
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