İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said work is under way to draft the necessary regulations regarding “sending those [Syrians] who do not consent” to refugee camps. “We will start an initiative in the coming days that will give us better results” the governor said, during a meeting with district governors, other state officials and representatives of industrial and trade chambers in İstanbul.
Turkey, a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a main supporter of the opposition fighting to topple his regime, has maintained an “open door” policy for Syrians fleeing the brutal three-year conflict. It is now hosting more than a million Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey, but only about 200,000 of them are in refugee camps in the border provinces. The rest are scattered across Turkey, including in İstanbul, and as they are often left with no other prospects to earn an income, many have resorted to begging to survive.
“We will start implementing a new policy very soon,” Mutlu said in response to a question at the meeting about how the authorities plan to address the problem of Syrian refugees living on İstanbul streets.
According to Mutlu, the number of Syrians living in İstanbul -- whom he called “guests” -- is 67,000. Even though the Syrian population [in Turkey] includes middle-income, educated segments of Syrian society, sadly, not all of them are in this category, Mutlu said, referring to those Syrians who have ended up begging.
“Last winter, we set up two guesthouses in İstanbul's Tuzla and Pendik districts for those who were living on the streets. We hosted about 700 guests at those facilities for five to six months. More than 500 of them agreed to be sent to Şanlıurfa as of last month. The rest stayed in İstanbul on the condition that they rent a house. Now we are working on regulations regarding sending even those who do not consent to camps,” Mutlu was quoted as saying by the private Doğan news agency.
‘Syrians also unhappy about Syrian beggars'
According to Mutlu, representatives of the Syrian community in İstanbul who work with the authorities are also unhappy with the fact that some Syrians are begging on the streets. “It is not just İstanbulites who are bothered by this situation; Syrians living in İstanbul are also bothered. Representatives for Syrians come to us and say, ‘These people are hurting our image as Syrian guests. This negative image is affecting all Syrians,'” Mutlu said.