Denied work permit, 500,000 foreigners working illegally in Turkey

?SA YAZAR  
ANKARA

 Many Chinese workers are employed by Turkish mine and construction  companies because they will work for lower salaries.
Many Chinese workers are employed by Turkish mine and construction companies because they will work for lower salaries. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the Turkish state annually gives work permits for nearly 10,000 workers, but it is known that there are still around 500,000 foreigners who are working without work permits since the ministry is reluctant to sanction employment for foreign workers. 
Recent remarks by Minister of Labor and Social Security Ömer Dinçer, who complained about requests from some companies for work permits for their Chinese workers employed in Turkey, once again brought Turkey’s foreign worker issue to the agenda. “When unemployment is one of the main problems in Turkey and when the same job can be done by a person in Turkey, it would be injustice for our citizens to allow foreigners to work in those jobs,” said Dinçer on Wednesday. The minister said more and more business owners have been requesting that the ministry grant work permits to their Chinese workers. In response to these petitions, Dinçer said the ministry’s excuse was that each of the jobs given to Chinese workers could be done by workers in Turkey.
The Turkish state does not want to employ foreign workers taking into consideration the high unemployment rate of the country, but although not officially confirmed, nearly 500,000 foreign workers are known to be working illegally in Turkey.
Police and the gendarmerie capture nearly 60,000 illegal workers each year in Turkey. The majority of illegal workers come to Turkey from the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Bulgaria, China, Romania and Armenia. Thousands of illegal Armenian immigrants, mostly women from the impoverished countryside, work as cleaning ladies and in other low-skilled jobs in ?stanbul, where many settled after an earthquake in their homeland in 1988. The exact number of Armenian immigrants in Turkey is unknown. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said in March that Turkey could send 100,000 Armenian workers who are working in the country without the necessary permission back to Armenia. “Look, there are 170,000 Armenians in my country — 70,000 of them are my citizens, but we are [tolerating] 100,000 of them [illegally] in our country. So, what will we do tomorrow? If it is necessary, I will tell them, ‘Come on, go back to your country.’ I will do it. Why? They are not my citizens. I am not obliged to keep them in my country,” Erdo?an said. Facing fierce criticism, Erdo?an later complained that he had been misquoted in the media, which he said misrepresented his remarks to mean that they were targeting Turkey’s Armenian community.
The sectors that these workers prefer also change in accordance with their home country. For example, while the Ukrainians and Armenians mostly work in jobs related to babysitting and home cleaning, those coming from China are generally employed in coal mines.
The employment of illegal workers brings many problems including unemployment. Many say that it is a failure that the government has not taken a step regarding the illegal workers, while there are still 2.7 million unemployed people in the country.
The main reason for business owners to employ illegal workers is that illegal workers are paid wages below the official minimum wage in Turkey, which is around TL 600 per month. The employers do not pay insurance premiums for these workers either. Some families in Turkey even prefer foreign nannies on the grounds that they are more educated. The only precaution against illegal workers in Turkey is fines imposed on them if captured.
According to a report by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security on unregistered employment and illegal workers, illegal workers began working in Turkey in the 1990s. The number of illegal workers increased a short time after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 with those coming from Russia, the Balkans, Central Asia, Azerbaijan, the Ukraine and Georgia. According to the report, the illegal workers are generally employed by small or medium seized enterprises. The regions where they are high in number are Marmara and the eastern Black Sea. The report says among the sectors where these workers are employed are: agriculture, walnut collecting, construction, carpentry, textile, house cleaning, translation and dish washing.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, 7,302 foreigners were given work permissions in 2004, 9,438 in 2005, 10,705 in 2006, 8,930 in 2007 and 10,705 in 2008.


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