The Politics of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Policies for Refugees in the Erzurum City of Turkey

The Politics of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Policies for Refugees in the Erzurum City of Turkey

Elif Çolakoğlu (Atatürk University, Turkey) and Gökçe Gök (Atatürk University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3322-1.ch012
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The City of Erzurum has a long history as a refugee city. It is a transition and destination city because of both geographical, and political, economic and cultural characteristics. However, it is obvious that the continuous increase in the number of refugees recently poses serious challenges to both citizens and urban administrators with the arrival of Syrians, as well as Afghans and Iranians. Also, the fact of the matter is that, it is getting more impossible for refugees to return to their homes in the near future. This is largely becoming evident. Under these circumstances urban administrators and stakeholders take urgent measures to have refugees stay in the city as well as their adaptation to the society within their resources. This study aims to analyze both their current situation, and to take measures addressing the problems caused by refugees in the city from the perspective of public administration.
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Today there are approximately 2 million (UNHCR, 2015) refugees in the Republic of Turkey (or “Turkey”) which has continuously allowed immigrants since it was founded. The majority of them (more than 1 million) are composed of refugees who have fled from Syria to Turkey due to the starting of the civil war in Syria in early 2011. Beyond these official figures, however, the Turkish authorities have expressed that there are many more refugees who have flown to the country. According to 2014 unofficial data, it is propounded that there are about 2 million Syrian refugees (Orhan & Gundogar, 2015; IHAD, 2013), and have constituted about 2.6% of the country’s population (Turkiye Istatistik Kurumu, 2015). In addition to Syria, a large population influx has been happening from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. There is no doubt that, beside the political tensions and civil war in their own countries, socio economic preferences and the seeking of their future in countries such as Turkey underlie their intention of leaving their countries.

In the early years of the Republic, a large number of communities who had lived under the Ottoman Empire and consisted of very different ethnics and cultures such as Turks and Bosnians from Bulgaria, Pomaks, Circassians and Tatars, apart from Turks coming due to the population exchange between Turkey and Greece, had migrated as “refugees.” It is calculated that more than 1.6 million immigrants were placed on Turkey. It was recorded that among those refugees 800 thousand of them were from Bulgaria, 400 thousand of them were from Greece and some Muslim and Tatars from Caucasus also migrated to Turkey. Meanwhile, especially since the beginning of the 1990s, Turkey has begun to become a destination country for new immigrant groups who were described as “foreigners” with disengagements from the Eastern Socialist Bloc Countries around Turkey and did not have any common history, culture or identity with Turkish people. Based on figures related to foreigners who migrated for various purposes such as work and education, a total of 2.5 million people who were granted their residence permits in the last 13 years (İçişleri Bakanlığı Göç İdaresi Genel Müdürlüğü, 2015), was reported. Along with this new position, Turkey is not only a traditionally inflow country from the countries mentioned, and the outflow to the Western European countries, but also the transition country from these years on. (Toksöz et al. 2012) As one of the most affected cities by these flows, Erzurum is the highest inflow and outflow of them among Anatolian provinces throughout its history.

Becoming a popular place for refugees, Erzurum is the largest city in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The city has been a major center in economic, transportation and cultural aspects in the region. In addition, the city stands out for its rich history and has been a strategically important location. Because it was governed by different tribes and nations such as Romans, Urartians, Ilkhanids, Sassanids, Arabians, and Seljuks. Afterwards, the Ottomans had ruled these lands until the establishment the Republic of Turkey, from the year of 1514 to the year of 1923 in Erzurum. Therefore, its population has been constantly changed throughout its historical development.

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