Turkey is to issue work permits for some of the 1.5 million Syrian war refugees it is hosting, its labour minister said on Thursday, dismissing fears it would harm local workers.
“We will grant a certain number of our Syrian brothers work permits to allow their employment within a legal framework, without hurting the local workforce,” Faruk Celik told private NTV television.
Celik said the measures are aimed to crack down on black market practices which force Syrians, including children, to work as cheap labour with no social protection.
“We want to identify all those refugees so that they can legally work here,” Celik said.
“It will have absolutely no affect on the chances of our citizens getting a job,” he added, responding to concerns that Syrian refugees would take jobs from Turkish citizens.
Celik did not clarify exactly how many refugees would have the right to work, but said “there are vacant positions in every province affected by labour shortages.”
He said the proportion of Syrian refugees in any given workplace will not be allowed to rise higher than 10 percent.
The unemployment rate in Turkey, an emerging economic power of 76 million people, officially stands at 10 percent, although the true figure is thought to be higher.
Long-term unemployment is particularly high among the young.
Turkey has maintained an “open door” policy for all those fleeing the more than three-year civil war in Syria and there are now over 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in the country.
More than 280,000 are living in refugee camps, mostly in the southeast, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
But some 912,000 are living outside camps in cities across the country, according to AFAD, and their presence has become an increasing source of tension with local residents.
Most recently, some 200,000 Kurds have fled from Syria to Turkey to escape an onslaught on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane by Islamic State jihadists.
The government will also issue temporary identity cards for all Syrian refugees, which will grant them a number of rights such as access to education and health care.
It has no plans to grant them citizenship.