Not all that long ago the media insisted on telling Americans that they were shirking their responsibility by not taking in Syrian migrants.
“Look at how many millions of Syrian refugees the Turks and Jordanians have taken in,” the media would insist.
These were crazy lies.
Jordan and Turkey were stuck with large numbers of Syrians, but neither was willing to take them in. Turkey wouldn’t even classify them as refugees. They certainly weren’t doing what the media wanted us to do, which was resettle them permanently in their countries.
Fast forward to today and the populace wants them gone, as Tom Gross cites.
In a poll conducted earlier this year, 68% of Turkish respondents expressed discontent with the Syrian presence, compared to 58% in 2016.
Turks are sharply divided on many issues, with one bloc tending to oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and an equal-size bloc ardently supporting him. Yet dissatisfaction with the decision to welcome Syrian refugees since 2011 is a rare exception to that rule, garnering majority criticism across party lines. Around 60% of those who back Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) express discontent with the Syrian presence, together with 64% from the AKP-allied Nationalist Action Party (MHP); on the opposition side, the figures are 62% from the IYI Party, 71% from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and 83% from the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
The more secular Turkish political movements accuse Erdogan of wanting to resettle Syrian Sunni Islamists in Turkey. Even Erdogan doesn’t seem that crazy, but illegal migration may be the issue that finally topples his Islamist regime.
Many citizens believe that Syrians are to blame for rising unemployment and low wages across all sectors. Unemployment was at 14% as of March, up from 9% in 2011. Put another way, the number of jobless Turks has nearly doubled to 4.5 million since the government first began admitting Syrian refugees.
The Syrian presence is also being blamed for many of Turkey’s social troubles. Emerging opinion leaders with large online followings have been especially important in normalizing anti-Syrian attitudes. Dismissed MHP parliamentarian Sinan Ogan, who boasts over a million Twitter followers, attracted thousands of interactions with a July post claiming that Syrian and Afghan refugees rape women and boys, and that “chopping heads” is a part of Syrian culture. Similarly, a recent article by popular opposition journalist Yilmaz Ozdil alleged that Syrians are “invading” Istanbul “street by street,” causing disturbances and forcing Turks to move out of their neighborhoods. He also accused them of setting up illegal businesses, forming gangs, and stockpiling prescription drugs, claiming that “Syrians are free to commit crimes.”
Funny how attitudes toward migrants are the same around the world, regardless of race, creed or culture.