Syrian refugees begging on streets of Istanbul

A Syrian man begs for money with a child at Istiklal Avenue on Jan. 22 in Istanbul

A growing number of Syrian refugees have resorted to begging on Turkish streets, a new measure of desperation for a generation fleeing civil war.

Here in Istanbul and in towns across the country’s southern border with Syria, a fresh wave of refugees fleeing renewed Syrian government bombardments in Aleppo and other towns is raising the number of handout seekers.

Other Syrians have flocked to cities from the overflowing refugee camps after losing hope of a swift return home or finding themselves in inhospitable surroundings.

Such expressions of distress are also occurring in Jordan and Lebanon, two other countries that border Syria and have likewise taken in many of the 2.5 million refugees created by the three-year conflict.

Turkey has been most hospitable to the refugees, granting them access to camps and health care. The country now hosts more than 700,000 of them, about 100,000 in Istanbul alone, the government and charities say.

Though only perhaps several hundred refugees have turned to begging in Turkey, charities and rights groups warn the problem is growing and shows the need for more state help.

“Some don’t want to stay in tents over the winter, while access to camps with better housing is restricted,” said Halim Yilmaz, the chairman of Mazlumder, a Turkish human-rights group which compiled a recent report on Syrian refugees in Istanbul. “Staying in camps also affects a person’s psychology.”