Concordia Summit joint strategy session | Syrian refugees: policy consolidation and challenges for Turkey

On September 25, 2018, the Atlantic Council in Turkey launched the report Toward Long-Term Solidarity with Syrian Refugees? Turkey’s Policy Response and Challenges at the Concordia Summit in New York during the United Nations General Assembly week.

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Frederick Kempe, President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Council
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Defne Arslan, Turkey Representative, Atlantic Council

Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe and Atlantic Council Turkey Representative, Defne Arslan, opened the launch by emphasizing that migration continues to be at the top of the agenda for world leaders as they convened last week at the UN General Assembly, while underlining the timeliness of the report.  Following the opening remarks, the Mayor of Gaziantep, Fatma Şahin, and Ebru Özdemir, Chairperson of Limak Investments, who also participated in the report launch, took the stage. In their keynote remarks, Madam Minister Fatma Şahin shared the vision of migration which she has been implementing in Gaziantep since being elected as mayor in 2014 and Ms. Özdemir encouraged the private sector to turn migration into an opportunity for all parties.

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Fatma Şahin, Mayor, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality

Following the opening and keynote remarks, Damon Wilson, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Council, moderated the panel composed of the report’s co-authors, Laura Batalla, Secretary General of the European Parliament Turkey Forum, and Juliette Tolay, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the School of Public Affairs in Penn State Harrisburg.

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Ebru Özdemir, Chairperson, Limak Investments

No country has been more affected by the Syrian refugee crisis than Turkey, which hosts more than 3.6 million refugees within its borders. During the discussion, the co-authors traced back the evolution of policies put in place by Turkey since 2011 in an effort to manage the refugee influx. In order to respond to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the authors argued that Turkey has demonstrated a combination of both political and material capabilities that is unlike what is seen in other countries, which typically lack one or the other. With an unfavorable international environment in both Europe and the United States, where governments are reluctant to resettle refugees, Turkey has been left to bear most of the responsibility.

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From Left: Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council; Laura Batalla, Secretary General, European Parliament Turkey Forum; Juliette TolayAssistant Professor of Political Science, Penn State Harrisburg

While Turkey deserves acknowledgement for its resilience in managing the situation, the authors pointed at the existing difficulties in responding swiftly to refugees’ needs. The economic empowerment of refugees remains the biggest challenge in order to guarantee a sustainable livelihood. On the other hand, magnanimous efforts have been made in order to avoid a lost generation, including a doubling in the percentage of Syrian children at school from 30 percent to 62 percent in less than 4 years. However, Turkey’s policy response has been slowly dismantled over time due to an uninterrupted inflow of refugees as well as a complicated foreign and domestic political environment. In this regard, the authors stressed the need to put in place a new sense of direction. In their recommendations, the authors pointed at different ways of developing a more holistic response to the challenge posed by the prolonged stay of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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From Left: Defne Arslan, Turkey Representative, Atlantic Council; Fatma Şahin, Mayor, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality; Ebru Özdemir, Chairperson, Limak Investments

Laura Batalla is the secretary general of the European Parliament Turkey Forum. Follow her on twitter @LBAdam

Juliette Tolay is an assistant professor of political science at the School of Public Affairs in Penn State Harrisburg. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteTolay

Laura and Juliette are co-authors of the Atlantic Council’s report Toward Long-Term Solidarity with Syrian Refugees? Turkey’s Policy Response and Challenges.