New article about xenophobia & discrimination of stateless Syrians in Turkey

  • 30 March 2023
  • 2 replies
New article about xenophobia & discrimination of stateless Syrians in Turkey
Userlevel 1

Hello, I am Dragana, the newbie in the Statefree team 🙂 .

I am currently finishing my Master’s degree in Southeast European Studies (Law and Politics) and supporting Statefree as a working student in different areas, such as policy, content and fundraising. Before the end of last year, when I met @Christiana and the team, l knew almost nothing about statelessness. I am curious to learn more about this important topic and spread knowledge and awareness about statelessness and its people around me as it is far more prevalent than expected. Here on the community I look forward to sharing interesting and informative content/articles with you 😊. Below you can find a summary of a very interesting article I came across on Monday:


Published by Joshua Levkowitz in: Foreign Policy (March 26, 2023), original title: Turkey’s Xenophobic Turn Targets Stateless Syrians

What this article is about: 

The article discusses the precarious status of Syrian refugees in Turkey, a large proportion of whom are stateless, in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14th. The initial pro-welcome narrative has turned into an anti-Syrian-narrative, which is reinforced by the country’s internal crisis: hyperinflation and economic collapse, the catastrophic earthquakes, security threats and ‘social challenges/changes’. In connection with this, there are increasing hate crimes against Syrians, who are turned into scapegoats and blamed for all negative developments in the country. Their fear of forced repatriation to Syria is constantly growing. The rise of racist discourses is also shaped by the Turkish collective memory from the 20th century - for example, the Turkish vernacular refers to Arabs as traitors (referring to WWI and their alliance with the British and French against the Turkish rulers), but also as their inferiors. The current developments are supported by the regime (Erdogan and AKP), but also by parts of the opposition -  Erdogan “vowed to send a million Syrians back within one year, despite the policy being seen as unrealistic and illegal”.

The most important facts and figures:

  • About 4 million Syrians live in Turkey,  making up almost 5% of the total population. They enjoy temporary protection status and are considered as ‘guests’. This status grants them some basic rights (e.g. free healthcare and education), but excludes the possibility of ever applying for Turkish citizenship (for comparison: application for citizenship by foreigners is regularly possible after 5 years of residence).

  • Approx.1.6 million of them are minors and an estimated 750,000 of this age group were born there, the majority of whom are stateless for various reasons: missing civil documents, obstacles in issuing birth certificates in Turkey, fear of going to a Syrian consulate or returning to Syria, and Syria’s sexist citizenship legislation: mothers can only transmit Syrian citizenship when their child is born inside the country; in Turkey, children are at risk of statelessness if the mother’s relationship to a Syrian or Turkish father is not clear or cannot be determined.

  • Although Turkish legislation to prevent statelessness permits children born in the country to acquire citizenship if they cannot obtain that of their parents, this is not applied to Syrian children.

  • In 2016, the regime began granting citizenship to some Syrians through a special provision in Turkey’s 2009 Naturalisation Law for those with ‘outstanding service in the social or economic arena’, i.e. highly qualified individuals: By the end of 2022, 223,881 Syrians could benefit from this provision.

  • The current election campaigns in the country did not put the integration of Syrians on the agenda, as they assume that most of them will leave the country soon. However, this does not correspond to the real state of affairs: the percentage of Syrians in Turkey who are not considering going back to their country increased from 17 percent in 2017 to 78 percent in 2020, according to a survey from 2020 by UNHCR.

  • Employment is regarded as a driver for integration: Turkey implemented a work permit system for Syrian refugees in 2016, but employers must bear the costs and are therefore often hesitant to do so. Furthermore, companies profit from cheap informal labour - according to estimates by the International Labour Organisation, 97 percent of Syrian refugees work in the informal sector.


Reading the article made me realise, on one hand, how the fate of the millions of Syrian refugees is being abused to gain political points (in the run-up to the elections) and, on the other hand, that urgent action is needed, in particular to offer a decent perspective to the hundreds of thousands of children who are born day after day as stateless persons in Turkey. I was shocked by this awareness as I was not sufficiently clear about the people's situation, which is a definite indication that more education on statelessness is needed. 



2 replies

Thank you for the great insights! 🙏

Userlevel 4

@Dragana so happy to have you as part of the community! ✌🏼