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Russians, Ukrainians turn to unregistered work as taxi drivers and realtors in Turkey

Local commerce chambers complain that Russians and Ukrainians have become sources of unregistered services, putting them at loggerheads with local businesses
A general view of Konyaaltı beach in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Türkiye, June 19, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view of Konyaaltı beach in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, on 19 June 2020 (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Many Russians fleeing the Ukraine war have begun to take up work as unregistered taxi drivers or realtors in Turkey’s tourist hotspot, Antalya, according to Turkish media reports. 

Traditionally, you'd find Russians on holiday in Turkey's Mediterranean coast, but since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war, at least 60,000 Russians have temporarily relocated to the coastal province of Antalya. More than 5.5 million Russian tourists also visited the city in the first six months of 2023, a 23 percent year-on-year increase. 

The greater influx of Russian tourists has meant that those Russians who temporarily took up residence in the city have now started providing services to their compatriots. 

Adlihan Dere, the president of the Antalya Union of Chambers of Tradesmen and Craftsmen, says Russians are operating unregistered taxis for airport trips. 

“We have a picture from Alanya. They are now doing taxi business and real estate business,” he told the local DHA agency. 

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“They have WhatsApp groups among themselves, and they do the shopping and rentals from these groups themselves. They do not leave jobs to Turkish citizens. The local president of the chamber of realtors is also seriously studying the issue with the tax office."

Alanya is a beach resort city within Antalya province. 

Others say Ukrainians, who generally have more of a low-profile presence compared to the Russians, are also involved in unregistered businesses like salons and restaurants or catering. 

Ali Akkaya, president of the Alanya Chamber of Tradesmen of Taxi Drivers in the Russian hotspot of Alanya, said Russians and Ukrainians picked up this work after exhausting their initial finances. 

“After the resources were exhausted, they all went on a quest from hairdressing to cooking and selling, from unlicenced taxi driving with their vehicles with Russian or Ukrainian licence plates to real estate,” he said.  “One of the sectors first affected by this situation is the transportation sector."

Akkaya adds that in some streets in Alanya, you can find QR codes on light poles and bus stops advertising unregistered taxi services.

Akkaya added that many Russians and Ukrainians drive cars whose entry and exit periods in the country have expired, resulting in seizures and fines by the government. 

Dere says Russians and Ukrainians have purchased houses in Antalya that they rent out to their own countrymen, which local business owners say is cutting into their business. 

However, he added that the tourists who stay in house rentals also purchase a lot of goods locally and are also contributing to creating extra revenue for local shopkeepers. 

Aytac Develi, who is a photographer for tourists in Alanya, said his business had been thriving in the last year thanks to Russian and Ukrainian women, but now they have competition from unregistered Russian photographers, too. 

Immigration is an increasingly polarising and hot-button issue in Turkey, where nearly four million Syrian and Afghan refugees reside. 

The government recently launched a deportation campaign that targeted refugees and other migrants living in large cities like Istanbul and Ankara. 

Thousands of Russians have purchased houses in Turkey in a bid to acquire Turkish citizenship since last year, contributing to an inflation of the real estate markets in places like Antalya. But it is also bringing in foreign currency, which is needed for Ankara’s flagging international reserves. 

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