29 October 2006

1190) What Illegal Armenian Workers Remind Us

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Wishing to protect the “genocide” lie with a law, France keeps insisting on its hostile attitude. The bill was passed in the French parliament yesterday. The next step is the Senate, and Turkey is now discussing what should be done about the bill.

One of the suggestions put forward is to deport illegal Armenian citizens, estimated to be 40,000-70,000, who are working in Turkey. This issue, that had not been discussed very much previously, flared up after the French parliament began discussing a bill to penalize those who deny the events of 1915 as genocide.

It is hard to understand why the illegal immigration issue had been disregarded until now, despite a systematic campaign to portray Turks as perpetrators of the so-called Armenian genocide and France trying to distort history through political means. Now we are rightly asking why this issue of illegal employment has been overlooked when it is extremely difficult for our citizens to find a job. However, there are also some who think these poor workers should not be disturbed.

The truth is that Turkey is facing serious illegal labor problems. The problem is not only limited to Armenians. Many people from neighboring countries come to Turkey and work in all kinds of businesses. Coming as tourists, workers from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and some Asian countries usually work in small and middle-size enterprises, particularly in construction, molding and casting, leather, textiles, plastic, agriculture, shipping, loading and unloading, cleaning, sales and the hotel industry.

Because they work illegally, they earn very low wages under difficult conditions and may be exploited. Apart from these workers, other illegal aliens are engaged in prostitution, smuggling and drugs.

Turkey began to import labor officially after 1960, but the country first confronted the inflow of illegal labor on a large scale after the disintegration of the USSR. Today, illegal immigration has reached huge dimensions. These people come to Turkey as tourists with a one-month or three-month visa but do not return to their respective countries. Some renew their visas and continue business as usual. Others enter Turkey illegally.

Nobody knows the exact number of illegal workers in Turkey but it is estimated to be one million. The most noteworthy report on this issue is the one prepared by the Turkish Labor and Social Security Ministry, entitled “Informal Employment and Employment of Illegal Foreign Workers.” The following lines attract attention in the 2004 report: “As no clear data could be obtained on the number of illegal foreign workers in our country, there is no official figure on the anticipated extent of illegal foreign employment in Turkey. Nonetheless, it is estimated that illegal foreign employment in Turkey has reached very serious dimensions, and the numbers are clearly in the hundreds of thousands.” This figure is estimated to be between 500,000 and one million, according to the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions, the report said.

Even though the dimension and the damage caused by illegal foreign employment cannot be fully determined, ordinary citizens living or spending their holidays, particularly in Istanbul and tourist regions, can clearly see the scope and negative effects of illegal labor.

We all know that unemployment is one of Turkey’s biggest problems today. With 2.2 million people currently out of work, our unemployment rate stands at 8.8 percent.

Illegal foreign workers employed for low salaries do not only increase the number of unemployed Turkish citizens but also decrease revenue for insurance premiums and taxes. Another dimension of the issue is the transfer of income. We think many foreigners registered as tourists bring foreign currency to the country but in fact it is just the opposite. Even if we calculate on the basis that every illegal worker transfers an average of $1,000 a year -- at least -- to his country, the total amount is around $1 billion.

Even Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) fines Turks working illegally in the country and returns them to Turkey. Does Turkey, which should give priority to its own unemployed citizens, have the luxury of disregarding a million illegal foreign workers?



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