Today • • 22 June

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No Real End in Sight: The Plight of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

The Syrian War that started now a decade ago has left at least 350,000 people dead while more than 2.1 million civilians have suffered injuries or permanent disabilities. The war has also turned more than 5 million individuals into refugees. It is evident that the conflict occurred at a very high human cost. 

Once a proud nation, many Syrians have been forced to endure lives of neglect and indignity. Like in other war-torn countries, foreign elements ruined their homes and their motherland 

Neighbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have borne the brunt of the refugees who have left Syria. They have taken in the millions who flooded their borders, completely altering populations. According to UNHCR, there are 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection and more than 330,000 refugees and asylum seekers under international protection in Turkey. Without further assistance, Turkey – a resigned host – may find it more challenging to manage the largest flow of people resulting from the biggest refugee crisis of our time. 

Refugees took as minimal belongings as they could, but little relief came when they reached the border. They were among hundreds of others, just like them, trying to cross over to a better prospect of life. Syrians have cumulatively spent millions of hours at crossings like these, forced to endure the elements – the blazing sun, relentless rain or blistering cold. If the weather did not scare them, it was the fear of not being allowed through.

Mr Abdul Jabal, a Syrian refugee that our team met in Turkey, shared his own experience of crossing the border with his family. He illustrated how his journey from Homs, Syria to Turkey had been very tough and difficult – his youngest child was only two years old when they made the journey. There were many mountains that they had to overcome – both physical and mental challenges along the way. The blistering cold was relentless. 

Alhamdulillah Mr Abdul Jabal has been living in Turkey for the past five years. He is the Head Chef of the restaurant where our team did the cooked meals packing in Reyhanli, Hatay. For over 20 years, he has been working as a chef. Previously he worked at a five-star restaurant in Palmyra, a historical city in Syria. In the restaurant where our team met him, he has been working there for a year and in Reyhanli, for five years in different restaurants.

For the refugees who successfully crossed the border, there was initial relief but their hardships did not end when they stepped over new land. Days turned to months, and every moment is a struggle filled with uncertainty. There were days without food, and months lacking proper shelter. 

For most, it has been a battle to survive in their new homes, with memories of their beloved homes haunting them. 

Our team met Mr Yasir, 50 during the house-to-house distribution of heaters and coals in Reyhanli, Hatay. He came to Turkey eight years ago from Morek, Syria. There are six people living in the household including his 95-year-old mother. Mr Yasir works as a painter and it was really sad to hear how hard he has been working for the past eight years. His children are still schooling and their living conditions are truly difficult – they receive 950 lira aid from the Red Crescent as a form of support.

When asked if he wants to return to his homeland: “Of course I will, if only the situation got better. I am tired of working every single day to secure a living here, even working through the harsh winter,” he said with tears in his eyes. From his expression, we could see a mixture of regret for leaving his beloved country, and anguish for not departing sooner. A mixture of feelings, as many of these refugees feel. 

For some refugees, their regret not only is for leaving behind their homes, but even leaving beloved family members behind. 

One such family our team met in Gaziantep, shared their story.

Hamuda, 6-years-old, is living with his mother who crafts leather pieces for a living. Despite the labour, she only earns 25 lira from 500 leather pieces. She is a widow and Hamuda is suffering from a heart problem. They rely on financial aid to also get by. 

The devastating news that our team discovered was this: Hamuda has another sibling in Syria – an eight-year-old sister. His mother brought him into Turkey because they had to urgently find treatment for him and at that time, they could not bring anyone else. Hamuda’s sister is currently living with a neighbour because their relatives have all passed away. With every passing day, it is growing more difficult for the mother to bring her daughter in.

We invite you to help the refugee community during their most vulnerable time by contributing to our Winter Emergency Appeal. We aim to deliver essential aid and sustainable programs to these refugees and help them elevate their lives for the better.

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