Refugee governance in Turkey: a multi-level governance perspective

In this webinar organised by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), professors Vivien Lowndes and Rabia Polat present their work on the governance of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

This research investigates local government responses to the Syrian refugee situation in Turkey, situating the analysis within a multi-level governance (MLG) approach. We explore how municipalities in Turkey have coped with the arrival of 3.6 million Syrians within a few years amid limited resources, ambiguous legal framework and changing national policy. A MLG approach enables us to analyse the negotiation of authority between different levels of governance, namely the international level (including the European Union), the national government and elected municipalities as well as horizontal actors such as NGOs. Turkey’s highly centralised political system, combined with the current political context, has restricted the capacity of local actors to develop their own refugee policies. Nevertheless, our research discovers local variation and creative policy responses, which can be explained at least in part by the ways in which municipalities relate to actors at other governance levels, both formally and via informal networks. The MLG approach helps explain how capacity is being generated at the local level through the involvement of NGOs and international funders and agencies, working alongside municipal actors in an environment where the nation state is reluctant to empower local government with funds, powers and legal safeguards. The value of the MLG framework to migration studies also lies in its recognition that nation states are increasingly shifting responsibilities for migration ‘up’ towards international and supranational institutions, ‘out’ towards non-public actors, and ‘down’ towards local level authorities (Caponio and Jones-Correa, 2018). Our research elaborates this proposition in relation to the case of Turkey. Vivien LOWNDES is a professor of public policy at the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham. She undertakes research, teaching and knowledge transfer on local governance and public services, with a particular interest in partnerships, citizen participation, and gender issues. Her work has been funded by the ESRC and AHRC, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Council of Europe, Home Office and Department of Communities and Local Government. Theoretically, she is well known for her work on institutionalism (Why Institutions Matter, with Mark Roberts, Palgrave, 2013). Methodologically, she specialises interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Vivien is co-editor (with Dave Marsh and Gerry Stoker) of the 4th edition of Theories and Methods in Political Science (Palgrave, 2017). She is currently working with Professor Rabia Karakaya Polat on a British Academy/Newton Fund project to research local government responses to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Rabia Karakaya POLAT is a professor of political science at the Department of International Relations at Işık University. Previously, her research has focused on the political implications of the Internet and critical security studies. More recently, she has been working on responses to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Her current British Academy-funded joint research analyses local policies and narratives towards Syrians in Turkey. Prof. Polat’s research has been funded by Tubitak and the British Academy. Her most recent publication is “Religious Solidarity, Historical Mission and Moral Superiority: Construction of External and Internal ‘Others’ in AKP’s Discourses on Syrian Refugees”, Critical Discourse Studies,15(5), pp:500-516.

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