KESK Symposium: War, Migration, and Refugees and Labour Issues


As a result of its geographical location, visa regime and wars and conflicts in the neighbouring countries, Turkey has become a country receiving immigration, particularly since the 2000s. Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey following the war in Syria in 2011. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees come from neighbouring Middle East countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as from the Far East and sub-Saharan Africa and live in Turkey. According to the official data announced by the United Nations, there are more than 4 million asylum seekers and refugees. In addition, there are more than 1.5 million registered migrants and more than a million undocumented migrants in Turkey. There are more than 7 million asylum seekers and refugees across Europe. The increasing and diversifying population of refugees and migrants and the fact that they may permanently live in Turkey profoundly affect all aspects of social and economic life. Access to fundamental human rights, having no safe conditions, social and economic impacts, access to public services and participation in the labour market of migrants and refugees has become a key agenda topic in Turkey. Unfortunately, the government considers these people a bargaining factor in international relations.

The government’s legislative changes, security-oriented migration policies and practices on the entry and stay in the country and participation of migrants and refugees in the labour market have been ineffective to provide a solution to increasing social problems in this field. Some of the common issues are as follows: Refugees’ employment in informal sectors without decent wage and job security irrespective of their legal status or being un/documented, the problems that they experience in accessing fundamental rights such as health, education and housing, the gender-based violence experienced by female migrants working in female-gendered occupations, child labour and forced marriage. It is widely observed that migrant and refugee workers are seen by the domestic labour force as a threat to their income. They continuously suffer from increasing hate speech and discrimination. There are numerous challenges for service providers or public employees and citizens who receive these services of education, health, transportation, municipal services etc. It is undeniable that new needs emerge under these circumstances.

Today, refugee-related issues are highly relevant and valid for the world. Although it is more visible in Turkey, the issues, problems, and needs related to migration and refugees are on the agenda of almost all countries. The number of displaced people was 89.3 million in 2021 and increased to around 100 million following the Russian-Ukrainian war. 

The War, Migration, and Refugees and Labour Issues Symposium, organised by the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESK), will be an opportunity to discuss various aspects of the refugees and migrants. Some of these aspects are the conditions that create refugees and migrants, what are the problems migrants and refugees face in access to fundamental human rights and participation in the labour market, what is the effect of the migrant and refugee population on public services, and the working conditions of public employees. The symposium will also be an opportunity to explore common areas of struggle to eliminate these problems. It will be in Istanbul on 24-25 September 2022. In addition, the symposium aims to discuss current issues with various aspects to formulate policy recommendations and build common areas of struggle.