BWI Delegation visit refugee settlement in Saricam

21 December 2018 09:51

A BWI delegation consisting of nearly 100 trade union leaders and delegates visited the Saricam Temporary Accommodation Center near Adana, Turkey following the BWI Regional Conference.  The delegation was led by Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI; Johan Lindholm, President of BWI European Region; and Dietmar Schaefers, Deputy President of BWI.  The visit was organized by one of the BWI affiliates in Turkey, YOL-IS. 


Turkey along with Jordan and Lebanon has the largest population of refugees from Syria.  In Turkey officially there are over 3.6 million refugees from Syria, and they are housed in fourteen refugee settlements throughout the country; however, many predict the figures are higher.  Syrian nationals, as well as stateless persons and refugees from Syria are provided with temporary protection (TP) by the Government of Turkey.  


The refugee temporary settlement opened on 10.2.2013 and is operated by the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.  Originally the refugees living at the settlement were housed in tents and in 2016 housing was converted to containers. Currently the population of the settlement is 35,000 Syrian refugees living in 6,200 containers.  It is considered to be one of the largest container refugee settlement in the world.   


The BWI delegation was able to visit the various facilities in the temporary settlement such as the greenhouses which grow tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, and cultivated and oyster mushrooms that are distributed to the residents.  The delegation also met with women workers working at the small textile factory where women are trained as seamstress.  The factory produces clothes such as school uniforms that are exported to other countries in Europe.  These women workers as well as those working at the greenhouses are part of a voluntary vocational training program to provide residents with skills that they can use in the future. 


In addition, the delegation talked to teachers teaching several thousands of children and young people living at the settlement in kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools.  One of the challenges for the teachers is the ability to communicate effectively with their students as they are not as familiar with Arabic and the children are just learning Turkish. 


Although the settlement is considered to be temporary as espoused by the those operating the facility stating that the Syrian refugees are “our guests”, the reality is that many have been living in the settlement for close to five years.  Recognizing the need for resident to seek employment, the delegation was informed that at least 5,000 of the residents are provided with permits that enable them to seek jobs outside the settlement.  However, there is a strict process of checking those leaving and returning the settlement.  With more four hundred cameras monitoring the settlement, it is clear that security is a key priority. 


At the European Regional Conference, one of the key issues of intense discussion was ensuring the rights for migrants and refugees.  Noting this the visit to the refugee settlement was an opportunity for many of the delegates to have a first-hand view of the situation facing millions of refugees.    BWI and its affiliates including FECOMA CCOO donated clothes, diapers for babies, school supplies for children, and other essential materials to the refugees living in the facility.