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How Hundreds Of Thousands Of Migrants Are Affecting Day-To-Day Life In Istanbul

A vendor sells coffee in the Turkish city of Izmir - September 21, 2015.
Charles Roffey
A vendor sells coffee in the Turkish city of Izmir - September 21, 2015.

No country has been more affected by the crisis of migrants and refugees fleeing Syrian than its northern neighbor, Turkey.

Millions of Syrians have escaped into Turkey, with hundreds of thousands in Istanbul alone – dwarfing the numbers seen in Europe.

University of Oklahoma economist Firat Demir, who’s from the country and regularly travels back there through OU’s Journey to Turkey program, says 20 percent of the two million Syrians in Turkey are younger than 11, which puts significant pressure on Turkey’s education system.

“Turkish schools are free for these kids, but they require Arabic language instruction, and we do not have as many Arabic speakers to provide that education,” Demir told KGOU’s World Views. “This will be a lost generation, I'm afraid.”

Demir also says most of the migrants haven’t applied for refugee status, meaning they’re legally guests of Turkey and ineligible for work permits. The sheer volume of Arabic speakers is palpable on the streets of Istanbul, as is the absence of English and other European language. It’s changing the character of the city, and putting stress on the political and economic systems. Turkey’s unemployment rate is already close to 10 percent, and an influx of refugees willing to work for a fraction of the pay has put Turkish citizens out of work. Government blame for the crisis could affect parliamentary elections in November.

“Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are the major supporters of opposition against [Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad's regime,” Demir said. “So you may perhaps see this as the natural outcome of Turkish involvement in the Syrian crisis, and the price that Turkey will need to pay.”

KGOU and World Views rely on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with internationally focused reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online, or contact our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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