Report on refugee crimes debunks far-right perception of Syrians

Published 22.10.2018 19:09
Updated 22.10.2018 19:11

A report by the Interior Ministry is debunking claims by Turkish far-right circles that Syrian refugees in Turkey, which hosts the largest refugee community in the world, are mostly criminals.

Figures by the Directorate of Migration which oversees refugee affairs shows that the crime rate among Syrians in Turkey was only 1.46 percent this year and dropped from 1.53 percent last year.

Turkey is home to more than 3.5 million displaced Syrians and has been praised by the international community for its exemplary hospitality although ultranationalists in the country argue that the refugees are a burden and they are often involved in crimes. The migration authority says Syrians were only involved in 1.98 percent of the more than 1.9 million "incidents" across Turkey, and the perpetrators were Syrians in only 1.46 percent of those incidents.

Far-right supporters on social media argue that Syrians get away with crimes they are involved in due to their temporary status in Turkey. The migration authority pointed out that every refugee had their fingerprints taken upon entering Turkey and are mandated to carry temporary IDs; they are only allowed to leave the city they reside in with permission from local authorities.

Turkey's open-door policy for Syrians fleeing the ongoing civil war led to rising anti-migrant rhetoric amid opposition parties. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Good Party (İP) are among proponents of policies to send refugees back to their country. Ankara strongly rejects it and advocates the establishment of safe zones within Syria to enable the return of refugees.

The country is home to a sizeable community of migrants from all around the world due to its location between Europe and Asia, but Syrians are at the heart of anti-migrant sentiment among ultranationalists.

Migration Directorate officials say facts about refugees are distorted and misinformation is prevalent about them. Indeed, social media is awash with claims that Syrians "receive salaries from the state, have their phone bills paid by the state, can be admitted to universities without exams, are exempt from vehicle taxes, are eligible to vote and will be given free houses and civil servant posts."

The officials say refugees are only given pre-paid debit cards for grocery shopping in a project financed by the European Union and undertaken by the Turkish Red Crescent and similarly are given pre-paid pay phone cards funded by the European Union. They say refugees are not exempt from vehicle taxes.

Other claims such as their eligibility to vote or a state-run project that offers apartments for low-income families at low prices have also been discredited as anyone looking to do these two things requires Turkish citizenship. Turkey has currently only offered citizenship to a limited number of Syrian refugees.

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