Many of the problems that Syrian refugees encounter in Turkey stem from the fact that their presence has become part of that country domestic politics. PM Erdogan’s AK party has done much to support them, but his unwavering support has become fodder to be used by his political rivals, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). This development does not augur well for the future wellbeing of Syrians in Turkey. The fortunes of Syrian refugees in Turkey cannot be tied solely to those of one of her political parties, a much wider support for the plight of Syrian refugees in Turkey is needed.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that the situation is not unique, except in regard to some of its details. In general, however, the influx of refugees into a neighboring country and the processes affiliated with their settlement almost always end up becoming a political hot potato that the political players in the host countries tend to pass around with much blame and finger-pointing. Moreover, popular anger against refugee population is as natural as their eventual exploitation by all and sundry. The tendency of refugees to try to make a “decent” life for themselves in their host countries end up contributing to these phenomena over the long-haul. But they can hardly be blamed. Wherever they are, and irrespective of the reasons that got them there, people have certain basic needs that they cannot do without. Being refugees is not a sufficient reason for people to give up on their basic needs and expectations in life.
The hard truth in these situations that all actors involved need to face is that conflicts that generate mass exodus movements seldom get resolved in a timely manner, and refugees often become a permanent fixture of their host countries, a development that could have destabilizing effects on these countries, unless their political classes adopt the right policies in this regard and in a timely fashion, irrespective of their particular ideologies. Sentimentalities and populist agitations might help some politicians for some time, but they always end backfiring and making matters worse.
The Syrian political opposition based in Turkey needs to reach out to all major political parties in that country in order to reach long-term understanding on the issue of refugee settlement and treatments. If the major figures in the Etilaf cannot be directly involved in the matter lest they antagonize their supporters in the current AKP-led government, lesser ranking figures in the Etilaf, or from among the independents whose ideological views might endear them to the other parties, can and should be encouraged to undertake such an endeavor. Regular meetings with members of the Turkish opposition in cities and towns where Syrian refugees are present in large numbers need to take place in order to reach a better understanding of their plight and their situation. Turkish civil society organizations of all stripes also need to be engaged in order to help educate the larger population.
Much of the same needs to be done in regard to the Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.