A Syrian family break their fasting on June 16, 2017, in the centre of Diyarbakir, during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (AFP photo)
ANKARA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- As a huge number of Syrian refugees have lived in Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, the Turkish government should facilitate their integration economically and socially with international cooperation, said experts.
Several reports were published recently on the 3.3 million registered Syrians living on Turkish soil since six years ago, more than any country of the world.
It is believed, however, that the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is event higher than this number. In addition, there are also more than 200,000 Iraqi refugees.
Only about 300,000 Syrian refugees live in 25 camps run by Turkish government organizations, while most of the refugees are clustered in big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir or Gaziantep, or located in southeastern Turkey, near the 900-km-long Syrian border.
As a result, over 240,000 refugee children have been born in Turkey since 2011.
Generally, everyone feels that compared with other countries, Turkey has done a very good job to look after the refugees, and the solidarity inside the country is still there even a long and arduous way is ahead for their real integration to the society for not being considered as temporary "guests" in Turkey. Only a small number of refugees have been granted working permits.
And contrary to some European countries where the refugee crisis has become a political denominator, in Turkey no political party exploited or tried to turn the fear of refugees into an election issue while some tensions and fights are reported now, particularly between locals and Syrian youngsters.
Around 100,000 refugees are expected to return to Syria from Turkey by the end of 2017, according to a project started as part of cooperation between the Family and Social Policies Ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) started the Euphrates Shield Operation in August 2016 to clear around 2,000 sq km of the Syrian provinces of Azez, Mare and al-Bab of Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers as a terrorist group.
Up to now, 70,000 Syrians have returned to these cleared provinces. After the completion of construction and security works, 100,000 Syrian refugees will return to al-Bab by the end of this year, according to officials. Some 20,000 of those who have already returned to their country since the Euphrates Shield Operation are reportedly located in al-Bab.
As part of the project, psychological support is also given to Syrian women, children and families who are planning to return to Syria.
Meanwhile, an academic study prepared by Hacettepe University in Ankara related to Syrian students in Turkey showed that 27 percent of them are not planning to return to Syria. Around 14,700 Syrian students in Turkey and 120 academics were involved in preparation of the study.
Some 27 percent of respondents said they would "never" go back to Syria, while 52 percent said they could go back to Syria once the civil war comes to an end, but there's still no peace in sight of the near future as the conflict remains the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
While Turkey is praised for the general manner that it addresses the refugee crisis, its resources can be stretched only so far while the country has been hit in recent years with political turmoil and a coup attempt in July 2016.
The researcher behind this survey, assistant professor Murat Erdogan, head of the migration and politics research center at Hacettepe University, said to Xinhua that Turkey only publicized its camps where refugees live in good conditions on the international arena without mentioning the millions living in dire conditions in various cities across the country.
"This pushed potential contributors to choose a so-called less fortunate country such as Lebanon or Jordan thinking that refugees are well being taken in Turkey. We shot ourselves in the foot really," regretted this expert.
"According to the last figure that I have, only 7.3 percent of refugees live in camps, and the other 92.7 percent live by their means," he indicated.
The professor also pointed out that the Turkish government was reluctant for different reasons to accept project offers by foreign institutions or NGO, preferring cash assistance because it wants to be the sole manager of any project without delegating responsibility, a stance for which he criticized.
In the meantime, Syrians have come to metropolitan areas and 80,000 of them have flocked to the Turkish capital for a better life and possible employment.
In downtown Ankara, Mouhammed Arbi, 33 years old, who works in menial jobs to provide for his family of five, has told Xinhua that he does not feel any apparent hostility in Turkey but would definitely want to return to his hometown of Aleppo, north of Syria, devastated by the war.
"We are accepted as guests but not as first class citizens here. We do not speak Turkish and sometimes it's really hard to get along with the locals," he said, adding that "Turks feel that we are grabbing their jobs, while I don't think it's the case."
"We would love to return home but for now as the war is still continuing, we are stuck here," said Arbi, with a smile on his face, explaining that they are lucky to be still alive even in limbo while the civil war in Syria crawls into its seventh year.
Turkey says regularly that she is championing the international efforts by spending over 25 billion U.S. dollars for refugees' wellbeing, and criticizes the international community for lack of response in this crisis that is worrying not only regional countries but also other key players.
Recently China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, said via his Foreign Minister Wang Yi that refugees are not migrants and the international community should strive to create appropriate conditions to encourage refugees to go home.
"China will take on a constructive role in resolving the refugee crisis," said Wang to reporters in July during a visit to Lebanon.
The European Union (EU), who brokered a controversial deal with Turkey in March 2016 to prevent the flow of asylum seekers into Europe influx and in return for three billion euros in aid, is one of the main contributors to Turkey even though the agreement has not lived to expectations.
Over 850,000 refugees living outside of designated camps will receive special debit cards, (120 Turkish lira, or 35 dollars, for each refugee per month) before the end of August financed by the EU and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent, and the final target is to reach over one million refugees by September, announced recently by aid officials.
"We have to admit that the international response to the refugee crisis globally has been poor. We witnessed that the international solidarity was week and the lack on a consensus aggravated the problem," pointed out Murat Erdogan.
"We are being left alone on tackling Syria refugee crisis and the international community gave an awful account regarding the issue, we have to share this burden fairly," stated recently Turkish President Erdogan, adding that Turkey will continue to be a safe haven for the people fleeing the war.
Yet as Turkey's absorption capacity has reached a saturation point, it is difficult to predict how long further the country can manage the problem on his own.