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Return, Stay, or Migrate? Understanding the Aspirations of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

The Syrian conflict has displaced millions and continues to be one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian emergencies. By the end of 2017, Turkey had registered over 3.4 million Syrian refugees. Today, refugees face discrimination and rising tension with host communities, restricted movement within Turkey, and sharp protection vulnerabilities. Their immediate needs and future aspirations are key concerns to regional governments and the international community.

As the Syrian conflict enters a new phase, understanding the needs and long-term aspirations of Syrian refugees is more critical than ever. Some policymakers have begun to call for refugee returns; others believe such conversations are premature or even dangerous. On the ground, several instances of deportation have raised concerns. But what do refugees themselves think?

A new report from Seefar, Return, Stay, or Migrate? Understanding the Aspirations of Syrian Refugees in Turkey sheds new light on the experiences of Syrian refugees and their perceptions of onward migration, local integration, and return to Syria. It examines how Syrian refugees define the conditions necessary for their return and obstacles that prevent refugees from achieving self-sufficiency in Turkey.

The report is intended to support organizations and policymakers working to facilitate solutions for displaced Syrians. Through focus group discussions in Gaziantep and Istanbul – key areas hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees – this report looks at the factors related to the desire to stay, return, or migrate. It explores how key actors can better facilitate longer-term solutions for Syrians living in Turkey and provides recommendations. Key findings include:

  • Many hoped to return to Syria eventually but held sharply different views on the conditions that would permit their safe return.
  • Most held negative perceptions of both regular and irregular migration.
  • As Syrian refugees struggled to find jobs and achieve financial self-sufficiency in Turkey, they reported turning to child labor as a coping mechanism.

Access the full report here.

Seefar welcomes comments and feedback on its research. To provide feedback and for further information, contact us.

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Displaced people Europe Middle East and North Africa Migration Research and surveys