Issuing of Work Permits Could Bring More Stability to Syrian Workers in Gaziantep, Turkey

An Arabic sign advertises the services of a Syrian barberin a Turkish hair salon in Gaziantep, Turkey, Source: Navanti

An Arabic sign advertises the services of a Syrian barberin a Turkish hair salon in Gaziantep, Turkey, Source: Navanti

In 2016, access to jobs, health insurance, and other services will likely become easier for Syrians in Turkey.

In January 2016 the Turkish government confirmed it had issued only 7,351 work permits since 2011 to the now more than 2.6 million Syrians in Turkey. However, as part of a broader effort to improve conditions for Syrians in Turkey and reduce migration to European countries, the Turkish government instituted new regulations for Syrians to obtain work permits on 15 January 2016. Under the new regulations, officially registered Syrians who have been in Turkey for six months are eligible to apply for work permits where they are registered. The rules limit Turkish employers to hiring a maximum of 10% of Syrians for their workforce and require ministry approvals for permits for Syrians in the education, health, and agricultural sectors.

A February 2016 survey of Syrians who work without permits in Gaziantep Province suggests many remain skeptical about the immediacy of changes to their daily lives:

I plan to apply for a work permit because I want job stability and easier access to steady benefits, such as health insurance. However, I haven’t seen any change so far [since the policy was enacted].
— Male, 21, Archaeological Assistant

Of 15 Syrians surveyed currently working in Gaziantep, 13 reported planning to apply for work permits. The Syrians cited stability, workers’ rights, and access to healthcare as the primary benefits of work permits. Nonetheless, the Syrian respondents argued only a small percentage of the Syrian working-age population have strong Turkish language skills, and Turkish employers often do not accept their experience and qualifications from Syria. Despite these setbacks, work permits will improve living conditions for a significant number of Syrians working without documents in urban areas like Gaziantep in 2016.

I don’t have a work permit, and I don’t think the Turkish government is serious about offering permits to Syrians. However, if the new policy is implemented, it will have a significant positive effect on us. We need legal permits to provide stability and reassurance to workers and protect our rights.
— Male Syrian, 28, Restaurant Cashier