A survey of Syrians in the south-central Turkish province of Kilis found that 90 percent are considering returning to their country. Researchers said that the high rate significantly contradicts critics who claim that Syrians seek to stay in Turkey permanently.
A group of researchers from 7 Aralık University in Kilis, home to 36,915 refugees in tent camps set up by the government with more reportedly staying in the city, conducted the study among some 2,000 Syrians.
Professor Mustafa Paksoy, head of the university's Faculty of Economic and Administrative Studies that conducted the study, said that the study explored the socio-economic conditions of Syrians in the city and their effect on the city's economic and social life. He said the study was designed to be as comprehensive as possible in order to aid in the formation of policies concerning Syrian refugees.
"Only 10 percent of Syrians want to stay in Turkey, while 50 percent are considering returning to Syria as soon as possible. The remaining 40 percent plan to return home once the war is over. The high rates indicate that the public perception that Syrians will not return is wrong," Paksoy said.
He added that their study also found "interesting" results regarding Syrians' impact on businesses, employment and society in interviews with local business owners. "Eighty percent of them think Syrians positively contributed to business activities in the city, which demonstrates that the notion that their negative impact on commerce is erroneous. On the contrary, Syrian refugees lead to a flow of capital."
Turkey hosts 253,101 displaced Syrians at camps in several cities bordering Syria including Kilis, according to figures provided by the Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which runs the camps. In total, more than 1.7 million Syrians live in the country.
The country is the primary host for Syrians displaced by four years of civil war. Turkey has provided Syrian citizens with tent camps and state-of-the-art "container cities," which were praised by the international community for their exemplary conditions. Yet, the government has struggled to look after others who are unable or unwilling to stay in the crowded camps with limited resources and little aid from other countries. While those with a relatively good income start up new lives in cities by setting up businesses and buying houses, most Syrians displaced by the conflict are those from low-income families. They live in squalid conditions in abandoned buildings and parks while working long hours in low-paying jobs without any social security.
Though they are officially defined as "guests," as they are granted the status of temporary refugees, they are viewed as overstaying their welcome - especially among ultranationalists - in the border cities where refugees are concentrated. Last summer, a string of riots against Syrians erupted in Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş and several other provinces near the border over "crimes" perpetrated by Syrians. The riots died down later as most were based on unfounded rumors.