Submitted by: M. Ercan Birbilen, Head of Migration Office, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
Gaziantep is one of the cities most affected by the population influx resulting from the Syrian crisis. The number of registered refugees in Gaziantep, and located in the city centre, is 451.183. It is however estimated that these figures may be higher due to a large number of unregistered Syrians.
According to statistics produced by the Turkish Statistical Institute, the population of Gaziantep was 1,799,558 in 2012 and the projection for 2023 was estimated to be 2,257,278. However, at the end of 2015, the population had already reached 2,300,000. Today, 17.25% of Gaziantep’s population consists of Syrian refugees.
As more than 8 years have passed since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, we believe that the issue has gone beyond emergency response. It is now an issue of capacity building and development policies. Short term and long-term plans are being made and we are trying to eliminate the negative socio-economic impacts of this global crisis.
Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality provides different services regarding educational courses and sessions for refugees in collaboration with national and international non-governmental organizations and UN Agencies. This increases the level of social integration of Syrian refugees in their host communities.
The project aims to increase the level of social integration between local citizens, Syrians under temporary protection and migrants in the region and facilitate their daily lives. The main mission of Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality is to provide socialization of adults and children through human-oriented activities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality offers specific educational courses and activities for adults and children. All activities involve both local communities and migrant populations, highlighting social solidarity and cohesion. Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality is aware that providing services to both communities will decrease the tension in the region. Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality provides all social services based on the principles of human rights and equality.
Ensar Community Centre, which works under the Municipality, conducts Language Courses. Local citizens learn Arabic and Syrian refugees can improve their Turkish in this centre because the Municipality believes that the language barrier constitutes a crucial obstacle to social cohesion. Some of the Syrian children are born in Turkey and do not know how to write or speak Arabic, their own language. The Ensar Community Centre gives these children a chance to learn their mother tongue. Because adults work during the week, Turkish courses are also organized on weekends to give them the opportunity to attend. Prejudices and discrimination against people not speaking the same language are frequent in a world where inter-communal communications are important. It is one of Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality’s most important responsibilities to bring together the local and refugee communities through mutual steps taken towards one another.
Ensar Community Centre also provides awareness-raising sessions to Syrian beneficiaries. These sessions cover subjects such as the provisions of the Temporary Protection Regulation, family law, women’s health, women’s rights, awareness on the negative impact of child marriage, child labour, child abuse, domestic violence, as well as communication skills and parenting skills. These trainings make participants more responsible.
Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality further provides vocational training courses to Syrian refugees. These trainings give beneficiaries a chance to notice the abilities they already possess and develop new skills. Vulnerable people in disadvantaged regions particularly benefit from these trainings.
One of the centres functioning under the municipality provides services to women in particular. SADA Centre’s overall goal is to support the social and economic stability of refugee women. It is a women-only centre that provides assistance to Syrian and Turkish women. This contributes to their self-reliance and ability to co-exist with women from their host community. The centre offers a safe social space with childcare services, referral services and language, vocational and empowerment skills development. It also offers a platform for dialogue, co-existence and the development of joint empowerment activities in Gaziantep and Turkey.
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- Welthungerhilfe (WHH)
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)
- Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (ASAM)
- International Blue Crescent Organization (IBC)
- Public Education Centres
How challenges were overcome
The influx of refugees has placed heavy demands on municipal services. Human resources and budget were not sufficient and the language barrier was an additional obstacle. The lack of collaborative work from other municipal units, public institutions, NGOs, INGOs played a key role in terms of the capacity gap.
In order to cope with challenges as a local government, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality expanded its traditional responsibilities in order to provide education, employment, health services, social services and humanitarian aid. Municipalities have an important role to play, not only in providing social services to host communities and refugees but also in building resilience.
This approach diverged from that of other host countries. It is not limited to temporary accommodation centres or the provision of humanitarian aid. The key ingredient to the success of this project is the belief that increasing the welfare of the disadvantaged will raise the welfare of the entire society. Supporting refugees to become socially and economically self-reliant and giving them freedom of movement and protection will make them more likely to contribute to their host country.
This was an innovation as the Municipality found a way to respond to the changing needs of refugees in a timely manner and adapt to conditions and limited resources. The GMM has been proactive in finding solutions to the stress put on the quality of municipal services and put social cohesion, stability and public order at risk. The adaptation process was characterized by attentiveness to the needs of all residents, finding creative solutions that maximized integration and shifted priorities as the situation changed. For example, actions in support of social cohesion became a higher priority as the vulnerability of the city’s population increased.
The municipality then started working with international organizations and agencies to create additional resources and innovate the process of service delivery. An evidence-based planning and intervention mechanism through the Social Research Centre was adopted. It prepared a social risk map of the city in Arabic and Turkish from a district-based survey of all households. The database can be accessed online and can be sued to intervene with specific services in case of an emergency.
Additionally, a Directorate of Migration Office was established in the Municipality in order to coordinate with international NGOs, disseminate information on refugee rights, and act as a project office.
It is high time for us to understand that migration and refugee arrivals are not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed. It is a global issue that affects us all. Everybody should take on the responsibility to create a better world. We kept this fact in mind. Refugees have needs but also strengths and we must not work for them but with them.
Results of the Good Practice
- The analysis of the situation and risk assessment enabled the Municipality to better use its resources and direct them to the most vulnerable sectors. This improved governance in general.
- Social cohesion levels increased as Syrian refugees are treated like Turkish citizens. Providing Turkish language classes also strengthened this aspect.
- Through the awareness-raising and vocational development courses, Syrian refugees started to feel like they were responsible inhabitants of the city. Opportunities for pursuing vocational training strengthened Syrian refugees’ chances to find a job and be included in the Turkish labour market.
- Thanks to the education centre, the schooling of Syrian refugee first graders living in Gaziantep is near 98%, while in Syria it was around 85%.