The Role and Capacity of Local Government in Managing Migration in Istanbul

  • Yeseren Elicin Professor at the Political Science Department of Galatasaray University, Turkey
Keywords: municipal services, Turkey, Istanbul, migration, Syrian refugees


Turkey is the first country of reception for Syrians refugees escaping the civil war. It hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than 90% of whom are living in urban and peri-urban areas. However, Turkey is among the countries preserving “geographic limitation” of the 1951 Convention, which prevents asylum-seekers
coming from non-European countries from being granted refugee status. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP), adopted on 4 April 2013, keeps Syrians under “temporary protection” with access to health and education systems, labour markets, social assistance, and some other services. The lack of financial resources and legal clarity regarding the responsibilities of local administrations concerning refugees is a major obstacle to the enhancement of local action. These administrations have had to accept large refugee communities and are attempting to meet their needs without a well-defined legal framework concerning the assistance and services they should deliver to refugees. Thisis why the solutions we found vary from one municipality to another, depending on the local administration’s willingness, creativity, financial resources they can deploy, and building capacity. International funding is clearly the most important means of building the capacity of local administrations to deal with refugees effectively. Although it is not possible to determine the exact financial burden refugees impose on municipalities, it is clear that they require financial support from the central budget in order to be able to plan and carry out necessary policy
actions to deal with refugee issues.