Foreign students hail Turkey for hosting refugees

By Busra Nur Bilgic

ANKARA (AA) – Foreign students studying in Turkey are praising the country’s efforts to care for refugees.

Vanesa Suarez, a 21-year-old Colombian student who has been studying journalism at Anadolu University in Eskisehir province under an exchange program, talked to Anadolu Agency following a seminar titled "News on refugees: Agenda setting and role of media in creating public opinion" organized as part of a European Union-funded project led by the International Labour Organization and Turkey’s Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services.

During her stay, Suarez said she has had the opportunity to observe how Turkey is handling the refugee crisis as a country hosting around 4 million.

She said Colombia is dealing with a large number of refugees from Venezuela and praised Turkey’s way of handling the crisis.

“Turkey did something good to show how to deal with refugees. In Colombia, we have sort of the same situation. This is why I am here. I want to learn. I think that this topic is really important because we are dealing with that,” she said.

“Turkey is much more experienced with refugees. There is much more planning. It is a lot more organized. In Colombia, it’s such a new topic. They don't know so much. This is what is different.

“But there are many things in common. For example, the way the media portrays refugees and migrants is really similar,” she added.

Suarez said she had an unforgettable time in Cappadocia, located in Turkey’s Anatolian region, which has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its chimney rocks, hot air balloon trips, underground cities and boutique hotels carved into rocks.

“There are many things that are not even similar to Colombia. For example, Cappadocia, because there is nothing like Cappadocia, the story about that place. So these are my favorite things,” she said.

“I think the real challenge in Turkey is language, because not all Turkish people know English. For me, it has been really complicated to communicate. But in general, I really like Turkey. Even if people can't communicate with me, they try,” she added.

– ‘We should forget politics and show our humanity’

Another journalism student, 24-year-old Palestinian Abdelkader Abd Elhalim, said he has been interested in refugee studies and visited refugee camps in Jordan with different organizations.

“When I came to Turkey I realized there is some kind of problem of connecting Turkish people with Syrian refugees. And there are also false stereotypes about refugees, a lot of wrong information being published on social media and even in the news,” he said.

“But these things can happen when a country is hosting huge numbers of refugees. For example, I've never faced a racist incident in Turkey. So we should forget politics and show our humanity.”

Abd Elhalim has been living in Turkey for three years and is getting more comfortable with speaking Turkish.

“I have visited more than 20 different cities in Turkey and loved each one of them. Every city has its own culture and food and that is the main reason I love Turkey,” he said.

He also said he had an unforgettable memory from his trip to the Black Sea region.

While shopping with his family, someone asked where he was from.

When Abd Elhalim and his family went to pay for the things he bought, the cashier said the man who was talking to him had paid for them.

“I heard a lot about Turkish hospitality, but this was the moment I really felt that. It was like a ‘Welcome to Turkey’ moment for me.”