Zeynep Bilgehan - Hürriyet / Muğla, June 23 () - Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been living outdoors in Turkey’s southern resort town of Bodrum, while locals have expressed both their sympathy and their concerns, fearing the situation could negatively impact tourism.
On the shoreline of Bodrum, a resort town in the western province of Muğla, Syrian refugees can be seen living in small parks alongside tourists out for a stroll, as the tourism season has come to the town, the population of which reaches more than one million in the summer months with an influx of visitors.
Syrian refugees are trying to survive by sleeping on blankets spread on the ground beside their suitcases along the shoreline. Some of them hold placards reading: “We come from Syria. Please help us” written in English.
“You call us beggars. We are not beggars. We are in exile!” said Zeynep, one of the Syrian refugees, who later detailed how they had come to Bodrum.
“We came to Turkey fleeing Aleppo a month ago. We stayed for a while in a camp in the southeastern province of Mardin. The living conditions [of the camp] were bad, however. We headed to Istanbul to find a job but we could not manage to settle there, too. We were then sent here from the bus terminal [in Istanbul]” she said.
Kiraz, Emel and Muhammed, a small group of Syrian refugees, said they had just arrived in Bodrum from Tal Abyad. Some of them were sent directly to Bodrum after they crossed the border into the southeastern province of Gaziantep. “Good intentioned people give us food and drinks but they do not employ us for a job because we do not have social insurance in Turkey” they said.
Several shopkeepers and locals have expressed their sympathy, but also their concerns about the situation.
“We feel for them as human beings but here is a resort town where people can make money for only two months. The current appearance of the town negatively affects our business here” said a local taxi driver.
Bülent Şenol, the owner of Bodrum’s Küba Bar, said they know it is a humanitarian problem but the presence of the Syrian refugees was not acceptable in a town based on tourism. “[The] local governorate should take action to shelter them” he said.
Turkey has long been hosting refugees fleeing the war in Syria, with up to 2 million currently living on Turkish soil. Some living in the Reyhanlı district of the southern province of Hatay recently returned after Syrian opposition forces seized control of Jisr al-Shugur, a city in the Idlib Governorate of northwestern Syria.
On May 25, 40 Syrian Turkmens who had been living outside in Bodrum were taken to another province by municipal police, following complaints from local shopkeepers and tourism companies.
Eight Syrian Turkmen families originally from Aleppo, who arrived in Bodrum in early May hoping to find jobs, have ended up struggling to survive in a park in a marina alongside Neyzen Tevfik Street in central Bodrum.