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Syrian Refugees Outnumber Turkish Citizens in 10 Cities

A Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News populations of Syrian refugees are quickly outnumbering local citizens in numerous Turkish cities.

“In at least 10 cities, the number of Syrian refugees now constitutes a sizable portion of the city,” explained the official.

The official labeled border town Kilis as a “Syrian city” because the refugees outnumber the locals. At least 110,000 refugees live in the town, compared to 108,000 Turkish citizens. Many more refugees reside “in 25 camps across 10 cities.”

Syrians fled to Turkey after the country spiraled into a civil war four years ago. Even more people traveled to their neighboring country when the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) formed their caliphate in northern Syria with totals between 1.8 million and 1.9 million. In September 2014, between 45,000 and 60,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey in only 24 hours. By the end of the month, the total reached at least 130,000.

Unfortunately, though, the refugees escape one evil only to land in the hands of another that is willing to take advantage of their vulnerability. Turkish men have pushed the female refugees into forced marriages or prostitution. These Turkish “customers” target “young widows or divorcées who have no strong social or family networks.” The women are used for sex or forced marriages, similar to how Islamic State men treat their female prisoners. Male relatives desperate for money will use their female relatives to make ends meet.

After Turkey opened the border, the government only provided two official border posts within the 559-mile border. These posts “are perilously far for the majority of refugees to travel,” which leads to people relying on human smugglers. The report also said border guards killed seventeen people between December 2013 and August 2014 at unofficial posts:

Ali Özdemir, aged 14, was shot in the head on the night of 18 to 19 May 2014 when approaching the Turkish border. His father told Amnesty International that Ali was with nine other refugees. About 10 metres before the Turkish border, they heard people speaking Turkish. Ali was afraid. Just as he decided to turn back from the border, he was shot in the side of the head. There was no verbal warning and there were no warning shots in the air. Ali was blinded in both eyes.

New refugee laws in Turkey appear to give Syrians more rights, but they stop short of granting them full refugee status. The old law stated that refugees not from Europe are treated as guests. The new law provides the Syrians with “legal status instead of just temporary protection.” Antonio Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, applauded the new law and praised Turkey for accepting Syrians.

“We estimate more than 2 million refugees are in Turkey today. Turkey very generously opened its borders to such a large number of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans,” he announced after he made it known Turkey accepted 11 percent of all refugees. “That has a special meaning in a world where so many borders are closed or restricted and new walls are built.”

A closer look at the law shows that it denies the Syrians official refugee status, “meaning that they are not entitled to various benefits such as housing, public relief, and other social services.” Kathleen Newland, an expert on Turkey’s refugee laws, said the law allows Syrians to work, but many complain the law is not implemented or explained to the refugees upon arrival.

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