ILO, Turkey, US offer vocational training for Syrians


A program to give vocational training to Syrian refugees in Turkey was introduced by the International Labor Organization (ILO), Turkey and the United States yesterday in Ankara.

A meeting was held on the first phase of a labor integration program for Syrian refugees, which reaches out to Syrians who took shelter in Turkey after fleeing a five-year-old war in their country.

Numan Özcan, ILO's Turkey director, said the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has reached to almost three million and it was becoming a widely accepted fact that Syrian refugees will not be in Turkey temporarily. Özcan said 90 percent of refugees were not living in camps set up by Turkey and are in need of employment for their basic needs, and this job search led to a decrease in wages and a flourishing unregistered economy. He said some 520 refugees received vocational and technical training, while 200 others received training to enhance vocational skills and sixty others were trained on entrepreneurship as part of the project conducted in Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep and Kilis, three Turkish provinces on the border with Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass, whose country contributes to the program, congratulated ILO in his speech at the event and praised Turkish efforts to help care for refugees. Bass said the U.S. government will be increasing its support for the project. He said it was a small project and might set an example for similar programs and they aimed to increase the number of participants to the program up to 3,500 refugees.

Turkey is extolled by the international community for taking care of Syrian refugees, and is the largest recipient of refugees in its region. Still the developing country faces an immense financial burden of helping its "guests," as Ankara officially calls refugees. Turkey has spent more than $9 billion on refugees and called for the international community to boost funds for refugees.

Experts say although refugees are a financial burden, they may also pose an opportunity if they are integrated into society and the economy. In January, Turkey started issuing work permits for refugees.

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