“The cost of living in Turkey is much higher than you can imagine,” said an Afghan migrant in Istanbul

Thousands of Afghan irregular migrants travel through Turkey each year with the aim of reaching Europe eventually. Many of them hope to earn money essential for their travel while in Turkey.

However, many end up stuck in Turkey due to low wage work, a higher cost of living and challenges related to the irregular migration journey towards Europe.

The Migrant Project interviewed an Afghan migrant who has been living in Turkey for the past two years.

How long have you been in Turkey?  Which province of Turkey are you living in?

I have been living in Istanbul City, Turkey, for the past two years.

What are you living conditions in Istanbul?

It’s hard to pay for your daily necessities here in Istanbul. The cost of living in Turkey is much higher than you can imagine. That is why there are 13 of us living together in a two-bedroom apartment. On some days, up to 16 people are in living here.

What do you and your roommates do in Turkey and how much is your income per day?

There are many companies here in Istanbul. Many people are working in companies such as those that make jeans and carpet wash, but they pay a very low salary. On average, I make about 1300 liras (USD 227) per month.

Does your income cover your expenses?

In general, I spend about 40-50 liras (USD 7-9) per day, which means my income either just covers it or does not cover it. If my income cannot cover my expenses, then I need to call for money from Afghanistan.

Do you receive your salaries on time?

Yes, we receive it on time, but the salary is very low.

Do the companies have insurance services for the migrants who are working with them?

If a person comes to Turkey irregularly, they are not entitled to insurance or healthcare. A few weeks ago, several of our friends were injured in a car accident. We faced many challenges and problems to get them medically treated.

How much money have you spent in the past two years?

When I first decided to come to Turkey, I had no information regarding the cost of living and expenses here. Upon arrival, I had very little money on me, and had to ask for money from Afghanistan until I found a job. Over the past two years, I spent my entire salary each month, and require nearly USD 500 from my family every six months.

Does the Afghanistan embassy in Turkey provide you with any support?

The Afghanistan embassy has not supported us. A few months ago, a number of our friends died in a fire, but the embassy did not provide us with any support to receive their bodies from the hospital.

What do aim to do and would you tell us about your experience of trying to leave Turkey toward European countries?

Nearly all Afghans who come to Turkey irregularly aim to go to Europe. However, the income we have here is not enough for our daily expenses. As such, we have to ask our families for money to continue the journey. I have tried to leave turkey twice this year, but on both attempts we were caught by the Greek police and returned to Turkey.

Do you know about the realities of life in Europe and policies of the European countries?

We are busy working 12 to 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. We have no time to study about the policies and realities of life in European countries. Although most of us are literate, but we have no knowledge of the policies in European countries.

What do you think of your future as an irregular migrant?

To be honest there is no hope for future here in Turkey. I know those who came to Turkey irregularly are living in a tough situation and want to move on or return home. With such low salaries, we are struggling to find solutions.

TMP – 19/07/2019

Photo credit: Orlok / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Asylum seekers and migrants make a living from collecting recyclable items in Istanbul, Turkey, 22 January 2016.