In coordination with the Directorate General of Development Agencies of the Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology, the European Union announced on October 5 in the city of Urfa the launch of the ENHANCER project, developed by the International Center for development of migration policies (ICMPD).
The project will provide a grant of up to 30,000 euros (approximately $ 35,000) for Syrian businessmen in Turkey whose status is under temporary protection.
The grant will be awarded to Syrian businessmen from the cities of Urfa, Konya, Kayseri, Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Mersin, Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay and Ankara.
Mehmet Caglar Aydin, Head of the Grants Management Team at ICMPD, said at the launch conference in Urfa, which was attended by representatives of relevant institutions and organizations: “The project aims to increase support for small entrepreneurs and encourage entrepreneurship. The project also aims to ensure economic harmony between the Turkish and Syrian peoples, as its participants will be able to implement their projects for a period of up to 12 months thanks to a co-financing margin of 10% and a margin of 90 % of grants. Applications will be accepted until October 29 and expire in 2023, and they will be assessed by independent reviewers.
Ahmed Haji Osman, Technosat owner for programming and communications services in Gaziantep, who applied for the grant, told Al-Monitor: “I started my business two years ago, months before the outbreak. the coronavirus and the lockdown that followed, and the crisis in Turkey, which has contributed to additional hardship for Syrian businesses. I have six employees and have to cover their health insurance and monthly salaries, but this is currently not possible due to poor economic conditions. If my application is accepted, the EU will then be able to cover the expenses of the team and extend the skills of the company.
The number of Syrian-owned companies in Turkey stands at around 13,880, or 29% of the total foreign-invested enterprises in the country, with a capital of around 4 billion Turkish liras (433.7 million Turkish dollars). Most of these companies work in construction, international wholesale, agribusiness, real estate, rental, and the garment industry. The total capital of foreign companies in Turkey is estimated at around 151 billion Turkish liras ($ 16.3 billion), according to the Turkish Ministry of Commerce.
These companies have provided employment opportunities to around 44,000 Syrians in Turkey. According to a report by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, if a family has an average of six members, then employing 44,000 people would be equivalent to meeting the needs of nearly 250,000 Syrians, or 7% of the 3.5 million Syrians in Turkey.
According to the same report, 22% of Syrian businesses are located in the southern and southeastern states bordering the Syrian border; 55.4% of Syrian companies focus their sales on foreign markets because they export their products. Syrians’ contribution to the Turkish economy is estimated at over half a billion dollars, not to mention the employment opportunities they offer Turkish and Syrian workers.
Galal Bakkar, economic advisor and director of Ecolink Investment Company in Turkey, told Al-Monitor: “EU projects in Turkey are only aimed at supporting Syrians. However, Turkey would not allow the implementation of such projects without earmarking part of this support for Turkish companies. On the other hand, the EU requires Turkish companies to hire Syrians in order to get the support provided. “
He said: “Through these projects, the EU seeks to end the illegal migration of Syrians to Europe. Turkish media should tackle such projects and inform the Turkish people that support for Syrians is provided by the EU and not by Turkey in order to mitigate racist practices in Turkey.
Abdel Hakeem al-Masry, economy minister in the self-proclaimed interim government of the Syrian opposition, told Al-Monitor: “Not all of these projects are aimed at supporting Syrians, and if they were, they were. would have been implemented in Syria instead of Turkey. . In addition, this grant is intended for existing projects, which means that it helps people who are already well established. Priority should be focused on workers wishing to start new businesses, as this would help to increase projects and manpower and create new employment opportunities.
He added: “These projects do not help integrate Syrians into Turkish society as each project will be independent. If the grant stipulated that the applicant was a Syrian-Turkish company, it would have contributed to the elimination of racism against Syrians.
Around 4 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey under temporary protection, and many of them work illegally in Turkish factories as the EU tries to support small businesses started by Syrian refugees.