The Guests, Turkey

Kirikhan/Antakya, Turkey. January 2016.


Turkey hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing war in the neighbouring state, more than any other country. Half of these Syrian refugees are children. In the beginning, Turkish reception policies were based on the assumption that the conflict would end soon. So when the influx started in April 2011, the Syrians were called “guests” instead of refugees. Under Turkish law Syrians don’t have the right to personally apply for asylum or refugee status but for a “temporary protection” status. They legally reside in Turkey, but do not receive government assistance and are struggling to survive. Out of the millions who have taken refuge in Turkey since 2011, only around 7,500 have received work permits, while the rest are employed illegally as cheap labour. 30 Syrian families live in this camp next to the road; most of them have fled from Kobane or Aleppo a few months ago. Everyone, except for a few pregnant women, works as day labourer on the surrounding fields, picking carrots or digging potatoes. They earn between 15 and 25 TL (5-8 EUR) a day. The children don’t go to school, and have to start working as young as 13 years old.