ISTANBUL—They beg on the street corners with their Syrian passports open so passersby don’t confuse them with Roma.
Others crowd the congested, winding streets of Istanbul in their luxury cars with Syrian license plates.
Outside of the 220,000 refugees from Syria living in temporary camps lining the southern border, no one knows exactly how many displaced Syrians are living inside Turkey’s major cities, but estimates place the number at between 500,000 and 1 million people.
Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’
They can be found all over Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis of more than 14 million.
Syrian children dodge the hectic traffic, asking drivers stopped at lights for money. One afternoon, as we drove down Kennedy Ave., a main roadway that loops around southern Istanbul on the banks of the Sea of Marmara, a little girl ran through the stopped cars, tapping windows to get the passengers’ attention. When my Turkish translator stopped the car and rolled down the window, she spoke to us in quick Arabic, begging.
Fathers and sons approach diners at one of Istanbul’s many outdoor cafes, pleading for food. Some families spend their days at Taksim Square, the scene of deadly riots nearly a year ago that began over the attempted gentrification of nearby Gezi Park.
“In Istanbul, from my personal experience, this street, six months ago or so there were no Syrians begging,” says the International Crisis Group’s Didem Collinsworth as she points out the window down to Galata Towers. “Now there are so many Syrians sitting on the street . . . The situation is deteriorating.
“Turkey bankrolls this humanitarian effort. Yes, Turkey is building camps but that has kind of slowed down because they are expensive to build, they fill up quickly and they are expensive to maintain and run,” Collinsworth says from her office near the tower, constructed by the Genoese in the 14th century.
“In the meantime, the inflow has not stopped.”
In February, as the United Nations reported the crisis was escalating, at least 500 Syrians fled to Turkey every day; some days, between 1,000 and 2,000 moved through the crossing points at Turkey’s southern border. In a bleak milestone, the UN reported earlier this month that Lebanon has now taken in 1 million Syrians since the conflict began in 2011. The agency reports there are now 2.5 million Syrians registered as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.
By the end of this year, the Turkish government expects the number of Syrians within Turkey to balloon to 1.5 million.
The Republic of Turkey — the biggest, most stable state bordering Syria — has shouldered the burden of caring for the displaced mostly alone. It has spent close to $3 billion but has only received $183 million from the international community, says Collinsworth cash advance loan no fax.
Few countries grant Syrians asylum. In fact, 58,450 Syrian asylum applications were received by the EU by the end of August 2013, according to Eurostat and UN data. Of that number, Germany took in 19,360, followed by Sweden at 15,480. Canada has only accepted 512 from when the conflict began to 2012, the data shows.
There are no precise numbers on how many are in Istanbul because so many are illegal. They flee Syria so hurriedly that many leave without their passports. Yet, valid passports are needed to apply for work permits and to obtain other benefits.
Back home, they were engineers, tailors, teachers, doctors and farmers. In Istanbul, most live in crowded apartments and take jobs no one else would touch at low wages. Legal papers are needed to obtain a Turkish work permit.
Redwan Ahmd is one of the displaced. The 23-year-old university educated engineer left his world behind and fled Aleppo seven months ago. He works in a caf
In need of some fash cash? Get instant approval. Apply now for a payday loan or faxless cash advance.