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We asked TAM students abroad to tell us about the immigration situation from an on-the-ground perspective. The details they highlight are fascinating!

Here, two TAM students who recently studied at METU in Ankara weigh in with slightly different perspectives. The first one left Ankara at the semester’s end to intern in DC for the summer. The other interned with UNDP in Istanbul over the summer.

The first student explains, “In Turkey, there were already a lot of beggars on the streets. The only way you could really tell if it was a person from Syria was whether they were speaking in Arabic or not. I encountered a number of them throughout the city, and I guess there were even more in Istanbul, begging in the streets. Turkey is particularly ill-equipped to handle these refugees, both bureaucratically and socially. I would not label the Turks as a particularly accepting society, and they recognize (at least those at the university) that 1. integrating Syrian refugees into Turkish society will be a necessary step and 2. Turkey has no idea how to go about this. In fact, when I was there, it seemed the entire populace was kind of in denial about the issue. Adopting the ‘if we just ignore it, the situation will eventually work itself out.’ I don’t recall the migrant crisis even being a major issue in the elections, which is a little alarming.”

The second student notes, “I have seen many refugees in the streets of Istanbul, I believe the city has over 300k refugees at the moment. I’ve seen them in public places, most often with children, and in many ‘tourist’ spots begging for money/food/etc. I can’t say how the media portrays them due to the language barrier, but I’ve heard stories of Turks really helping them. For example, a newlywed Turkish couple fed refugees instead of having a celebration/reception. In one instance, a lady ordered food for 30 or so Syrian kids begging for food and walked away without paying. Turkey has spent about 6 billion dollars hosting refugees and has accommodated over a million, it’s quite impressive, but you also see them in deplorable conditions at times.”

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