This report looks at multilevel governance dynamics and at the integration policies targeting post-2014 migrants developed by three small and medium-sized towns and rural areas in Turkey. Primarily based on interviews conducted in each of the selected municipalities, it provides an overview of
1) national, regional, and local integration policies targeting migrants in Turkey;
2) policymaking relations among the key actors involved in these policy processes in the six localities and key features of policy networks within which these actors interact;
3) how these actors perceive and define integration.
The report first touches upon Turkey’ overall legal and policy framework on governance of migration and integration. This overview includes a description of legislation, national policy documentation on integration, legal and institutional capacities and roles of different governmental and non-governmental actors at national and local levels as well as cooperation and coordination mechanisms among these actors.
The report finds that the policy framework of Turkey creates certain barriers for policy making relations at the local level and in creating networks among the key actors. The centralized national policy making and governance system in Turkey does not allow local actors to independently develop local policies specific to their contexts. In addition, inconsistencies in national policies that include return-based narratives of politicians and policy makers on the one hand, and integration focused policy and program initiatives on the other, along with the pending temporariness of refuge statuses create confusion among local actors who thus choose to remain on the sideline rather than being proactive. Most importantly, international organizations and civil society organizations play a key role to address the needs that are not met by governmental authorities, while municipalities play a limited role due to limitations of funding and human resources. However, there is an increasing awareness that local actions and policies are key to produce solutions that are more sustainable and targeted. However, the actors who are given such a role at the provincial level and who are in the center of coordination and cooperation efforts in the localities do not have a high decision-making power and other capacities such as budget, and human resources at the local level. The actors’ perception of integration, or harmonization which is the term used instead in legal and policy documents in Turkey, differ depending on various factors such as local historical and political context, the actors’ awareness of the issue, public opinion against migrants and refugees in the localities and their mandate. While some actors believe that harmonization is possible once certain actions are met, such as by strengthening education policies and working to change perception of host communities, others do not believe that harmonization can be achieved at least in the short-term due to structural factors from lack of clear national policies and institutional preparedness to inherent cultural differences.
Authors: Meral Açıkgöl, Kristen S. Biehl, Zeynep C. Eren Benlisoy