With regard to the unstable situation caused by the ongoing internal conflict in Syria, Turkey, which has been hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees, has to focus on developing a long-term integration policy as an ideal solution, an expert on immigration told Daily Sabah.
"If the reasons that have taken you away from your country and made you a refugee disappear, in case democracy comes or the war ends, the ideal solution is to return home. As long as the first solution in Syria does not take place, Syrians will live in Turkish society. Therefore, integration of Syrian refugees in Turkey is essential," Metin Çorabatır, president of the Center for Immigration and Asylum Studies (İGAM), said.
He pointed to the necessity to review and develop integration policies "since it seems that it is unlikely to maintain stability in the region."
Since the breakout of the Syrian civil war in 2011, more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees have escaped their country and moved toward Turkey as a safe haven.
Çorabatır said that Syrian people living in Turkey should be integrated into Turkish society through employment and social policies instead of providing them aid as a temporary solution.
The necessity to develop permanent integration policies was also highlighted in the recent report published by the Ombudsman Institution entitled "Syrians in Turkey."
"Even as efforts to ensure peace in Syria and to facilitate the return of Syrians to their homes continue unabated, it has also become a clear sociological reality that the likelihood of permanence has increased with each passing day. In 10 years the Syrian population in Turkey might reach five million," the report noted. It also showed that one of the important indicators of the Syrians' survival are the babies born in Turkey since 2011, which can be read as a sign of Syrian people's inclination to stay permanently in Turkey; thus, the need for comprehensive integration policies due to the likelihood of permanence.
As school-age Syrian children are the sole breadwinners in some situations, Çorabatır highlighted that as they work and cannot go to school they both forget the Arabic language and cannot learn Turkish, which undermines their integration process in Turkey.
The report of the Ombudsman Institution also suggests the Arabic language as an option to be provided on government websites, adding that using their mother tongue can be a great step to monitor bureaucratic issues and the integration of Syrian refugees.
On the other hand, Çorabatır stressed that voluntary returns must be dealt with and solved through a diplomatic solution.
"There is great desire to return to the homeland; however, with Assad in power, I think as the refugees are the victims of this regime, they do not want to go back," he said.
However, citing the operations that Turkey launched to destroy the targets of terrorist organizations in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab and the northwestern province of Afrin, Çorabatır said that in these regions a significant number of Syrian people have returned to their homes.
To ensure the safe and voluntary return in coordination with Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the organizations of local authorities, Turkey runs a program to ensure the return of Syrians who want to go back to their homes. Turkey continues to address the social and primary needs of the people in the region. So far, 250,700 people have returned home.