Social tension boiling with refugee influx

They keep coming, running for their lives, pushing through the holes in the wire fence. In the past few days alone, thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing Tel Abyad have crossed into Turkey near Akandcakale.
Their journey and the trauma they experience do not end when they reach safety on the Turkish side of the border. Nor is the human impact of this exodus limited to the refugees themselves, who get temporary protection status in Turkey. In the cities, towns and villages of the border area, life has changed beyond recognition for the local residents as the majority of refugees settle outside the camps in urban centers. I spent the past few days in Akandcakale, Harran and ianliurfa, where the social tension is palpable. Even the most hospitable inhabitants, who see it as a charitable duty to distribute aid and come to the rescue of Syrian families in dire straits, express their frustration. The changes have been profound in these tight-knit and conservative communities and they affect all levels of daily life. In Akandcakale, one woman explained that she used to encounter many familiar faces at the market. Most shoppers are now strangers, part of a fluid population that ebbs and flows. In popular suburbs of ianliurfa with high concentrations of refugees, locals and newcomers live side by side in narrow alleys. The traditional inhabitants complain that rents have soared: An apartment that was TL 200 is now costs TL 450 one that was TL 500 is now TL 700. In most apartments, several Syrian families live in close quarters, crammed into spaces that offer little intimacy. In such circumstances, violence is quick to flare up. Syrians can also be found in insalubrious shacks erected in the dirt and in storage rooms with no sanitary facilities.
At a community center in the Urfa district of Hayati Harran, set up by the Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR) with support from the Danish Refugee Council, refugee women bring their children for playful activities, learn new skills and get a chance to share their burden with fellow refugees. A Syrian doctor and midwife on site say that many of the 2,000 women that have come to the center since it opened in March suffer from psychological trauma and depression. The influx of people desperate to find work has had a dramatic impact on the job market, local residents complain. The daily wages of unskilled workers have dropped from around TL 60-80 to as low as TL 15. Competition for work is fierce and many Turkish families, already impoverished, find it increasingly hard to make ends meet. Some refugees are even willing to work all day without pay, just for the chance of a decent meal for their families.
Locals tend to blame the new arrivals rather than the greedy landlords who now routinely ask for one year of rent in aance or the employers who exploit laborers, including children. Low-income Turks eye with envy the aid that gets distributed to the Syrians, wondering why they do not benefit equally.
With no end to the conflict in sight and prospects for a return to their devastated country very limited, many Syrians are trying to put down roots even if they officially remain temporary and”guests.and” Those who still have some means set themselves up as hairdressers or electricians, offering services at rock-bottom prices. These entrepreneurial moves once again put them in direct competition with their Turkish neighbors.
Family life, too, has been affected. In the region, polygamy has long been a feature of the social landscape, but the practice was on the decline. It is now enjoying a revival as a growing number of Turkish men take Syrian women, sometimes very young, as second or third wives. Iand’ll touch upon the multiple aspects of this social setback in my next column. Turkey deserves greater credit than it currently gets for its open-door policy, which has saved many lives. As more displaced people continue to pour across the border, the Turkish authorities will also have to figure out how to support their smooth integration, taking care to address the very real concerns of the local population. and”They are war victims,and” one Turkish woman said in ianliurfa. and”But we, too, are suffering from this conflict.and”

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman