Turkey: Syrian Refugees In Istanbul Fear Unknown Fate

Middle East

Syrian refugees who have not been registered officially in Istanbul, Turkey, are facing deportation following the expiration of the 30 October deadline.

The 30 October deadline for unregistered Syrian refugees settled in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, came to an end last month, leaving the refugees in a precarious situation. There are fears among Syrians there without “kimlik” (temporary protection card) that they will be deported back to Syria, more specifically to the so-called “safe-zone” being created by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and its allied Syrian National Army (SNA). Nevertheless, the official demand is that they simply leave Istanbul.

Many of the Syrian families settled in Istanbul have resided in the city for a number of years since they escaped from the Syrian civil conflict. The “kimlik” had granted them the opportunity to find employment in the city and make a living. However, the Turkish authorities have interrupted the temporary provision of “kimlik” to Syrian refugees.

It is estimated that there are currently approximately 556,000 Syrians in Istanbul alone, representing between 3.5% – 4% of the city’s whole population. A large number of these are reportedly registered with the Turkish authorities, however, those without any residency permits are likely to be affected by the enforcement of the deadline.

In a speech made in September by Turkish Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, he noted that up to 100,000 Syrians in Istanbul would be at risk of being sent to other parts of the country. Nevertheless, the threat of being sent to the so-called “safe-zone” hangs over the heads of unregistered Syrians in Istanbul, who are fearful of the unstable situation in northern Syria.

Istanbul had once welcomed the Syrian refugees without any conditions. However, the internal political and social climate within Turkey, which is inclined towards criticism of taking in refugees from Syria, has pushed governmental institutions to look for a way to solve the refugee issue. Indeed, the Istanbul mayoral elections in March 2019 involved heated discussion about how to deal with the Syrian refugee issue, which had come to the attention of the political authorities following local grievances.