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Urgent Message for the Brussels III Conference: Include the Voices of Refugees When Deciding on Their Future

While the European Union and United Nations are getting ready for the Brussels III "Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region," the Syrians who are subject of this conference are nowhere to be seen. That is why Upinion engaged with more than 7.000 Syrian refugees in Turkey to hear about their challenges and their solutions to their problems.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 11, 2019 --( While the European Union and United Nations are getting ready for the Brussels III "Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region," the Syrians who are subject of this conference are nowhere to be seen. Even though the Conference will provide even greater space than previous editions for Syrian, regional and international NGOs and civil society organisations, there is no platform for your "average Syrian Joe" to speak up about his needs and solutions fitting his situation. Most stories that are currently being reported in the field are those presented by humanitarians working in the crisis areas and hosting countries. The voices of the people in it are often overlooked. Yet, this is what the world needs to hear and actively listen to, if we want to improve effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian support (as agreed in the Grand Bargain).

For understandable reasons (i.e. time, money and complexity of logistics) there is no continuous involvement of Syrian refugees in the decision making processes. As Ms. Mogherini, High Representative/Vice President of the EU, said about the crisis situation in Syria: "too often we discuss of Syria but not with the Syrians…."

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Last December, Upinion - a social enterprise that engages with communities through social media - set up a community panel of over 7.000 Syrian refugees in Turkey via Facebook Messenger and had real-time conversations with them about their most prominent challenges, as well as the solutions they see for addressing them. What is even better, this panel is, as we speak, eager to respond on the topics that are going to be discussed during the conference.

Insights of Syrian refugees in Turkey
Some snippets of the challenges that Syrian refugees in Turkey face are amongst others difficulty to understand the Turkish language, lack of financial means and the inability to find a (suitable) job:
“I am not able to find a job and we get no financial assistance, despite the high cost of living and rent.“ —Female, age group 18-30, lives with spouse.

Syrians who already have a job would like to have better working conditions:
“There is one solution and that is to decrease the working hours from 12 to 8. Then the fatigue will be less.” —Male, age group 18-30, lives with a friend.

To tackle those challenges Syrians mention as a first step the ability to learn the Turkish language for free as it enhances the communication and integration of Syrians in the Turkish society. Besides, it will also help them with finding a (more suitable) job.

Syrian women in the community shared that they face other struggles compared to those of men. For example, they mention that it is hard to raise children in their current circumstances. Whereas other woman want to start a family but they are unable due to their work commitments and their need for generating an income. Another challenge women face is harassment:

"Sexual harassment ... there are some who ask for employees to work. However, when I go there, they think we are cheap girls and the physical and verbal harassment begins." —Female, age group 31-40, lives with parents and/or siblings

Another distressing fact is that the majority (82%) reported that they did not know of any NGOs in their Turkish province that helps them with their above mentioned struggles. So while these challenges are not new, what is unique, is that having a two-way communication platform could help both parties in solving them more adequately. In fact, it could lead to innovative solutions that may even be more (cost-)effective than expected.

Next steps
Our community of Syrians shared a lot of valuable information. Upinion’s overall goal is to help improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees while involving them in the change process. So while we are talking politics during the "Conference on supporting the Future of Syria and the Region," let’s start including those who are the subject of the gathering as well.

If you are interested in engaging directly with Syrians in Turkey, please contact Upinion via If you are interested in the full report, please go to our website
Contact Information
Tessa de Kruijk
+31 (0)85 888 222 8

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