We have just returned from several weeks away that included seven days exploring historic Istanbul from its famous sites to its slums. It’s an enormous city so seven days was not enough to allow much beyond the older parts of it centering on the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Apart from that, we also came face-to-face with the influx of Syrian refugees who have left, or simply bypassed, the refugee camps along the border.
What struck me first was the public and private recognition of them as refugees, not illegal aliens. How unlike our own recognition of the influx of persons escaping the violence of their homelands to seek shelter and opportunity in the U.S. Many, perhaps most, Syrian refugees in Istanbul squat in the slums. Some find work, but many beg, illegally peddle cheap goods on the street, or pickpocket unwary tourists. On the other hand, they are systematically moved into the nation’s universal health care program. Children are entered into the school system, and adults are encouraged to learn how to fit into the Turkish way of doing things.
No doubt there are many holes in the system, and not everyone is happy with them being there, but it’s so different from our own stomping Rumpelstiltskin like hysteria at illegal (read criminal) aliens masquerading as children and teens, or our outrage at the illegal, mostly Mexican, adults who have been here for years building our houses, landscaping our lawns, and tending our shops at low wages with no benefits while simultaneously paying into a Social Security system from which they are unlikely to ever get anything.
I wonder why we find it so hard to lean anything from others? Oh well, we’re Americans. What could a second rate nation such as Turkey have to teach us?