Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Syrians recruited as cheap agricultural workers in Turkey

Scores of Syrian refugees fleeing the bloody civil war in their country are being employed in seasonal positions in Turkey.

Employers in certain provinces, where hourly wages are too low to work in hard weather conditions, have been seeking to hire Syrian refugees willing to work for below-average pay. Local farmers in the eastern province of Erzurum also employ Syrian immigrants in sugar beet fields for TL 40-50* a day.

Living in a tent with his 10-member-family near the town of Ilıca, 44-year-old Alaattin Şahin told Today's Zaman that he has just arrived in Erzurum, after leaving a refugee camp in Şanlıurfa province on the Syrian border.

“We fled the war in our county to take shelter in Turkish camps. However, we need to work to live on. We came to Erzurum with other relatives. We have worked for two months in hoeing and similar jobs in sugar-beet fields. After this work was done, we started working a hay-packing job for TL 50 a day. As we are used to the hot climate of our homeland, the weather in Erzurum doesn't bother us. We work in good conditions. We will go back to the camps in Şanlıurfa when we finish the work,” Şahin said.

According to the most recently announced data, Turkey's unemployment rate dropped to 9.6 percent in April of this year, compared to March, when it stood at 10.6 percent, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) said this month. Unregistered employment stood at 33.3 percent.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a farmer told Today's Zaman that unregistered employment is illegal. “But I failed to find a worker to employ in my field for TL 70 during the month of Ramadan,” he said, “Since they were fasting, they turned down our offers. I then had to employ 30 Syrians for two weeks. They were pretty quick and efficient workers.”

The head of the Eastern Anatolian Agricultural Producers and Animal Farmers Union, Nazmi Ilıcalı, said Syrian refugees are often recruited for low prices in the manufacturing, agriculture and service sectors.

“The agricultural season is very short in Erzurum, during which the products should be reaped and stocked in warehouse immediately. Yet our workers do not like what we offer. Everyone desires a desk job. Therefore, Syrians are employed for hard labor,” the farmer added.

An official report released in early May claimed that the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is 1.6 million, but the actual figure is thought to be around 2 million. Turkey has long been praised for its open-door policy regarding Syrian refugees and for its humanitarian assistance to refugees in its camps, but the situation for those living outside the camps has recently become a cause for great concern.


***1.00 EUR = 3.05120 TRY

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