Every year large numbers of Iranians travel to Turkey. Of this group crossing the border there are people, who have political, social, and religious views in conflict with Iran’s government policy. Many feel it necessary to apply to the UN for refugee status, but find themselves caught in the systems of help that leave them stateless, penniless, unable to work, and struggling with issues of identity and security.
Refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan in Turkey are caught in a legal limbo, pushing some into the arms of smugglers. Turkey does not give refugee status to anybody from Afghanistan or outside Europe. Even if the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, takes somebody under their wing, when they get to Turkey they have to pay for their own temporary residence.
They are housed in one of 52 “satellite” cities, located primarily in rural zones, where they sometimes languish for years with few prospects of ever getting Turkish citizenship. If you want to leave your town, even for a short visit to somewhere else, you need police permission. If you do not have it and you get caught, you are an “escapee” and you might go to prison.
How can the Church in Turkey demonstrate God’s love and the reality of that love to these refugees? While it is a small church, it is being encouraged to engage as workers from around the world join hands with it to reach out with hope and grace. This is not just a problem for the Church in Turkey, it is all of our problem.