What Are The Refugees’ Expectations in Turkey? Eyewitness Report
With the widespread flight of many Iranian journalists and political and social activists who are now in neighboring countries, seeking asylum from third countries over the past few months, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has tried to demonstrate the issues and problems facing the Iranian refugees in Turkey. A distinguished Iranian journalist who is in Turkey at this time has sent the Campaign reports about the situation of refugees in Turkey, their expectations and living conditions following a call by the Campaign for such reports.
The Campaign hopes that with careful reflection of these individuals’ issues and problems, any assistance or help which is intended for this purpose is based on better identification. We also hope that the reports will bring public attention to a situation which due to its unique characteristics has the potential to become a human rights concern. Below you can read the report which the journalist has entitled “creating employment opportunities among refugees.”
What can a refugee expect when he lets go of his home and goes to another country to apply for asylum? It is clear that refugees have chosen to leave their countries due to problems they were facing in their home country. But how closely are a refugee’s expectations met by the assistance international organizations, the most important one of which is the UNHCR, offer?
Clearly it is not reasonable if refugees expect to receive amenities such as housing, money, tuition, and medicine as they go through their refugee process. No refugee expects these, either. But it is important for refugees to have the possibility of enjoying minimum living standards. The refugee is entitled to this and this is the responsibility of organizations who state their mission as one of promotion of human rights.
For the refugees, such opportunities as medical facilities and even sometimes monthly financial aide, even though in small amounts, are available. At the same time, the refugees themselves know that the United Nations High Commissioner is essentially taking actions in order to expedite their refugee status process. But, the major difficulty in this situation is that, between the conditions that the refugees are forced to have and the opportunities that international organizations and the High Commissioner for Refugees provide for them, in many occasions, homology often does not exist. In another word, it is true that the United Nation’s staffs help the refugees to obtain asylum, but in reality many refugees can not explain the asylum process.
They do not understand why sometimes they must wait for months for their interview date, wait for months for replies, and wait for months for a third country to accept them as refugees. In the meantime, many refugees are deprived of legal rights in the third party countries, and employers in these countries are capable of dealing with them in any way they want, and pay their wages with any amount they choose, or not to pay at all. That’s in case if they would be able to find any work with their asylum status.
The presence in a second country, for obtaining asylum, in one hand is an opportunity and in another is a threat for these countries. Opportunity in this way that the refugees’ presence in these countries is associated with increased monetary and foreign exchange. The money must be spent. Suppose a refugee lives in a country for two years during which they must go through their asylum process. During this time they need a home to rent, have expenses for food that must be obtained, and still sometimes they have other accessories such as use of sport facilities and… that they might accept financially according to their ability, which these are all in the advantage of the host country.
At the same time, some threats exists such as cultural problems and corruptions, crime and felony, and in a limited way overburden of the labor market in the host country. In this way, with these dual opportunities and threats, the host countries self-servingly exaggerates the threats, and denies or ignores the opportunities that are given to them.
There is a point which only international organizations which have deep influence can bring to light. Refugees should be allowed to talk about the opportunities they bring their host countries, so that they will not be as discriminated against as they are, forced into a corner with every hardship or accident. These refugees could be a potential work force for the development and technical work force of the host country. Many of these refugees have professional expertise in different areas and they can offer their expertise to the host countries, provided that international organizations and UNHCR view this as an opportunity to create employment opportunities which could use these potentials in a productive way.
When these organizations’ only mission is defined as providing assistance to refugees during the asylum seeking process and coordination with police for solving problems, a situation will emerge where a refugee has to wait in line for a financial assistance interview for six months in Turkey, at the end of which he/she may receive 100 Lire per month. He doesn’t have a work permit, he has to pay residence taxes, and is responsible for his housing and food expenses. The current view to management of refugees is one where the effort is seen as an “expense,” meaning that there is a budget and so far as the budget allows, funds are spent. But it is very clear that due to a shortage of funds, such expenses will never pay for all that the refugees need and with all this effort, there will always be dissatisfaction which will bring on more problems.
Changing the “expense” management view into a “creating employment opportunities” one will not only enable utilization of existing capacities, it will also create an atmosphere of satisfaction in which misunderstandings are eliminated, giving way to solving the refugees’ problems. Obviously there are many different organizations who can help the refugees in situations of choosing attorneys, expediting the asylum process, etc. There are a lot of people who help the refugees in different ways through charity.
This is all good, but international economic conditions dictate a limit on funds that can be allocated to this; whereas United Nations can change the existing situation through an approach which creates employment opportunities. Such an approach will need scientific research, but if we are looking at a world which will continue to see refugees, why can’t this issue be viewed as an opportunity?