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In Turkey, Syrian refugees use their skills

Marketplace Contributor Aug 21, 2012
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Jeff Horwich: An estimated 170,000 Syrians have now fled fighting between government and opposition forces. Tens-of-thousands have ended up in neighboring Turkey. Many of those Syrian refugees have brought their entrepreneurial skills with them.

From the Turkey-Syria border, here’s reporter Reese Erlich.


Reese Erlich: Mohammad Jundi walks towards the refugee camp where he’s lived for the past 15 months, ever since he fled his home town in Central Syria.

Mohammad Jundi: The Syrian military bombed my city. We were demonstrating peacefully, then the military came, shelled the city and slaughtered some civilians. We had to get out.

Surrounded by fellow refugees, Jundi explains that, back home, he ran a small business.

Jundi: I had a restaurant but it was completely destroyed as revenge against my family because of our anti-Assad protests.

Jundi is putting his skills to work in the Yayladagi camp. He’s turned his tent into a falafel stand. He says he and others here are grateful for the free meals the Turkish aid groups provide but nothing compares with a good Syrian falafel sandwich. And here, as elsewhere, business has its challenges.

Jundi: In Antakya, the closest big city, the prices for garbanzo and other ingredients are normal. But in the nearby village here, sometimes they gouge us on prices.

At a grocery in that nearby town, owner Muktar Yashar is raking it in. He denies gouging the Syrians, but admits that some local merchants make a lot of money off the refugees. Business is up 70 percent. That’s why people in this small rural town fought to keep the camp open when Turkey’s government considered closing it down a few months ago.

Muktar Yashar: I don’t want the war in Syria to continue just because of business. But if the war ends, my business will go way down. We want the refugees here.

The Turkish government has moved thousands of refugees to other camps in Turkey, but some 3,500 remain here. And several thousand more enter Turkey every week.

In Yayladagi, Turkey, I’m Reese Erlich for Marketplace.

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