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ANKARA: A new survey released by Turkey’s Social Democracy Foundation, known as SODEV, reveals that negative feelings towards Syrian refugees in Turkey are on the rise.

Turkey, home to 3.7 million registered refugees from war-torn Syria, the largest refugee population in the world, has seen tensions between locals and Syrians in recent months, mostly due to domestic politics. and economic difficulties.

According to the SODEV survey, 66% of respondents think that Syrians should return to their country of origin, this feeling being higher among voters of opposition parties.

More than half of these voters favor the repatriation of Syrians, with a rate of around 42% among voters of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Turkish respondents overall describe Syrians negatively, with 45% believing that Syrian refugees are dangerous people who could cause problems in the future.

Forty-one percent of respondents consider them a burden on society, and more than 70% of respondents said they were not “clean, trustworthy and polite”, while 57% believe that Syrians are not workers.

Across the country, 55% of people preferred not to have a Syrian neighbor, and about 65% said they would not marry or allow their children to marry a Syrian.

Half of the respondents said they would be bothered if Syrians attended the same school as their children, with 70% adding that they only communicated with Syrians when they had to.

However, half of the respondents said they had not encountered any concrete problems with Syrians in their daily lives, and 77% said that Syrian refugees had not harmed them in the past five years.

Omar Kadkoy, a migration policy analyst at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, told Arab News: “Over the past 11 years, and especially after 2016, the (Turkish) government has prioritized project-based activities to induce and safeguard social cohesion rather than a strategy. of integration”.

According to Kadkoy, the majority of Syrians and Turks live in parallel worlds, and populist politicians exploit this gap and widen it with misinformation and hate speech.

The survey also sheds light on public perception regarding the ongoing financial assistance that has been given to the refugee community in Turkey.

Half of those polled think the Turkish state should only provide humanitarian aid to Syrians who urgently need it, while 70% think Turkey has already helped Syrians more than enough.

With a debit card practice in place for the past six years, the EU is helping a third of the vulnerable refugee population in Turkey meet their basic needs each month.

So far, Brussels has distributed more than 4 billion euros ($4.579 billion) to NGOs and international aid groups working to improve the situation of refugees in Turkey.

Last year, the EU provided an additional €3 billion to be used in refugee-focused projects until 2023.

After repeatedly asking the EU to share the burden, Turkey has spent more than 40 billion euros on refugees.

However, this is not just a story of deprivation; Syrians have established more than 10,000 businesses in Turkey, some with know-how provided by EU-funded projects.

The companies are mainly active in the wholesale, real estate, hospitality, construction and manufacturing industries.

Although these initiatives help to support them and avoid dependence on state aid, 67% of respondents are against the opening of Syrian companies in Turkey, saying that these companies do not pay taxes or cause no more unemployment in Turkey.

“This is largely driven by the refusal (to accept) Syrians as members of the community as a whole,” Kadkoy said.

“Although there are informal businesses and those who run them are both Turkish and Syrian, there are nearly 10,000 businesses registered with Turkish chambers whose owners have invested 2.1 billion liras (154 million dollars) to build businesses across Turkey, and they have created inclusive employment opportunities,” he added.

However, about half of those surveyed said they would avoid shopping with a Syrian business; 82% of Turks believe that Syrians do not contribute to the Turkish economy, and 85% say that they do not contribute to the Turkish social fabric. 80% think it would be impossible to live in peace with Syrians.

Respondents expect crime rates to increase, internal conflicts to be exacerbated, the economy to be weakened and moral values ​​to be undermined if Syrians stay longer in Turkey.

Ertan Aksoy, president of SODEV, said that the Turks see the increase in the number of Syrian companies as a sign of permanence.

“They see the Syrians’ presence as a moral obligation and accept humanitarian aid for as long as they need it and in a restricted way,” he told Arab News.

According to Aksoy, the lingering prejudice against Syrian refugees is mainly driven by the declining purchasing power of Turkish citizens due to high inflation rates.

“As long as people struggle to earn a living, they start to see refugees as a scapegoat to blame (for) their daily economic problems,” he said.

“On top of that, the influx of Afghan refugees following the Taliban takeover has added to social frustration,” Aksoy added.

“Rather than using the refugee card for national consumption and translating it into voting potential, opposition parties are mostly using responsible rhetoric these days, with the exception of a few dissenting figures.”

Experts also note that Turks from lower socio-economic status are much more tolerant of Syrian refugees, even if they have to share the labor market with them.

“However, those who benefit from the cheap labor of refugees, for example factory owners, take a critical stance…when we ask them,” Aksoy said.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities recently found the bodies of 12 migrants who froze to death near Greece, blaming the tragedy on Greek guards sending them back across the border without shoes or clothes – claims that have been dismissed by Athens as “false propaganda”.

According to official migrant readmission statistics, Turkey has taken back 2,300 Syrians from the Greek islands under the readmission agreement.

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