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Original scientific paper

Refugee Crisis and Local Responses: An Assessment of Local Capacities to Deal With Migration Influxes in Istanbul

Yeseren Elicin orcid id ; (izvanredna profesorica Fakulteta političkih znanosti, Sveučilište Galatasaray, Turska

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Although Turkey has been gradually transforming into a country of asylum, its legislation concerning refugees remains inadequate to guarantee the fundamental rights and basic needs of this population, such as accommodation, healthcare, and employment. However, following legal modifications in 1994 and 2013, persons from non-European countries have been allowed to apply for “temporary asylum” in Turkey. Currently, almost 90% of Syrian refugees in Turkey live in different Turkish cities, and Istanbul is hosting the highest number of out-of-camp Syrians. Temporary asylum status provides these refugees with some basic needs. Refugees living in camps have access to education, water, food, shelter, and health services, while others may benefit only from the right to free healthcare and medication if they are registered. Consequently, the noncamp populations living in different cities have exerted considerable pressure on municipalities.
The present study tries to analyse the legal a nd administrative ramework in Turkey which provides assistance to refugees at the local level. For this purpose, the experiences of lower tier municipalities in Istanbul have been described, and their capacities as well as difficulties in dealing with the crisis have been assessed. The study focuses on three municipalities: Zeytinburnu, Sultanbeyli, and Sisli. In Istanbul, services delivered to Syrian refugees vary noticeably from one unicipality to another. The lower tier municipalities generally incorporate the services they offer to refugees within the framework of emergency management, and more specifically, assistance to the poor and needy. However, a few municipalities do carry out well-developed, integration-oriented, and longer-term programmes. It would not be wrong to claim that muddling through determines local action, which has been built gradually. The lack of legal clarity surrounding local administrations’ responsibilities towards refugees and the lack of long-term governmental policies constitute major obstacles to the enhancement of local action.


Syrian refugees; Istanbul municipalities; local capacity

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