Syrian Refugees turn into Slaves in Turkey and Lebanon
Forced to stay in Turkey after the European Union negotiated their exit from Greece and other European countries, refugees will enter the underground economy in this country.
This is nothing new, and the closing of Europe’s gates will worsen the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of Syrian families. Children and parents will become captives of those who exploit desperate people.
But the abuses against refugees are not only taking place in Turkey. The same is happening in Lebanon. The abuses have been denounced by the non-governmental organization Freedom Fund, which warns that given the fact that the refugees have no papers guarantees they will have to work in the black market.
In theory, the 3,3 billion euros earmarked by the EU to Turkey have to be invested in the refugees themselves: in their education for children and employment for parents.
The country already hosts 2.7 million refugees and has supposedly reserved their inclusion in the legal framework in every way, starting with the right to housing. The EU understands this and that includes the new labor law passed last January.
However, according to Turkish officials and the data supplied to humanitarian organizations, in the two months in which the current law has been in effect, the Turkish employers have only accepted 2,000 applications for work permits, which is less than a 1 % of all refugees in the country.
Between 2011, when the Syrian war began and with it the flow of refugees, and last January, Turkey had provided work permits to 7,351 Syrians, according to Deputy Prime Minister, Numan Kurtulmus.
When the law was passed, he said that employers could use Syrian refugees for up to 10% of their workforce, and that in any case it would be the provincial governors who would determine the limit.
In any case, the condition for obtaining a work permit would include a six-month wait from the approval to the issuance of an identity card, as published in the daily Hürriyet. Another fact that is being overlooked is that if employers hire Syrian refugees is precisely because they can pay them less than they would have to pay Turkish workers.
If, in the opinion of some, Angela Merkel sought to cheapen employment in Germany by absorbing refugees, it is Turkey’s businesses that are now Turkish enjoying that opportunity.
While Europe’s doors are closed, the pressure on the Turkish border will increase with the announcement of an offensive by the Syrian army on the city of Aleppo.
The latest refugee crisis at the gates of Turkey occurred in January, when at least 35,000 people flocked to the border crossings but were forced to stay back except those who were seriously injured.
The three camps set up by Turkey on the Syrian side of the border for those refugees are at the limit of capacity and sanitary conditions are worsening by the day, report humanitarian organizations.
Its location is also not safe, since they are too close to the front lines. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has announced that he wants to build a new city of refugees on Syrian soil.
In Lebanon the refugee situation is much worse than in Turkey as they have no right to work, unless they accept to do so in conditions of slavery, according to the complaint filed by Freedom Fund.
More than a million refugees, perhaps too many for a country of less than 4.5 million are now fighting for survival there.
The absence of a host framework that allows work to those householders who legally reside as refugees has the most perverse effects: child labor.
As it happens in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon is the breeding ground for Lebanese employers who prefer to employ children to pick potatoes or to work in workshops, in restaurants or as deliverers.
Parents said to the Freedom Fund that they have no choice but to accept. It is believed that 60-70% of Syrian refugee children are now in the workforce, and in the case of the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, virtually all children work in agriculture, “exposed to dangerous pesticides and fertilizers.”
As for the girls, many are forced to marry at age 13, because that makes them one less mouth that the family needs to feed. The rest of the children who do not become slave laborers or who are obligated to marry someone they have never seen in their lives ends up as beggars on the streets.