Migration and Arrival in Turkey: Urban and spatial approaches

30 September 2023

Istanbul, Turkey

Scholars studying the intersections of migration and the city have long been interested in the notion of urban arrival spaces, which essentially refer to urban localities that cater necessary information, and provide (affordable) accommodation, employment, and networks to newcomer migrants (Hanhörster and Wessendorf 2020; Hans and Hanhörster 2020; Schillebeeckx, Oosterlynck, and De Decker 2019). This interest goes back as far as the Chicago School on Urban Sociology (Park, Burgess and McKenzie 1925) which developed the idea of  “transition zones” as ports of first entry from where migrant newcomers transition to other neighborhoods. Doug Saunders’s now popular book Arrival City (2011) revived these debates on arrival conditions and integration processes of migrant newcomers. Today many arrival areas are characterized as socioeconomically disadvantaged urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of migrants and high rates of fluctuations. They function as hubs within cities where the aggregation of resources, services, and networks for new arrivals can be found. In the more recent decade, scholars have also started talking about the concept of arrival infrastructures, taking again a similar spatial approach while also emphasizing the role of different actors (e.g. long established local residents, brokers, civil society actors, public authorities) and institutions (e.g. small businesses, religious institutions, leisure organizations) in facilitating the urban incorporation of relatively newly arrived migrants (Hanhörster and Wessendorf 2020; Meeus, Arnaut, and van Heur 2019).  Overall, these approaches push scholars to explore the relationship between arrival spaces and broader national and/or urban integration frameworks from a more critical lens (ibid.).

Turkey presents an apt case for exploring these various dimensions, although there has been limited academic debate on this topic to date. Across Turkey’s different cities, there are urban areas that have served as arrival destinations for different and successive internal and international migration flows over several decades, some even with a history extending into the Ottoman period. The arrival of a high number of Syrian refugees over the last decade has also led to the emergence of entirely new arrival spaces in cities with little previous migration histories. With the dramatic changes in Turkey’s role as a migrant-receiving country, there are increasing efforts to govern the spatial distribution of migrant and refugee populations. A notable example is the dispersion policy that was introduced by the Presidency of Migration Management in Turkey starting in 2021, which today has halted the registration of foreign nationals in 1,169 neighborhoods across Turkey. This state-initiated intervention noticeably targets arrival areas, opening the question of how this policy is impacting the urban incorporation processes of newcomer migrants.

In this one-day workshop, we will discuss the emergence and transformation of arrival areas in Turkey and will explore the following questions:

  • How are old arrival areas in Turkey being transformed through recent migrations?
  • What new arrival areas (including non-urban areas such as small towns and rural areas) and infrastructures do we see emerging across Turkey?
  • How do different actors shape arrival?
  • How have recent changes (social, legal, technological) and crises (pandemics, wars, natural disasters such as earthquakes) shaped arrival in Turkey?
  • What are the methodological and ethical challenges, opportunities, and limitations in analyzing arrival from below and through an everyday lens?

Within this workshop, there is also a scope to move beyond these themes/questions, providing additional perspectives and critiques on the notion of ‘arrival’ in itself as a term within and outside the boundaries of urban spaces. We hope this workshop fosters open and diverse dialogue with scholars across disciplines, career levels, and localities. We aspire to move this dialogue beyond Western-centric conceptions of arrival and bring in empirically rich, theoretically substantial, and methodologically innovative research discussion.

This workshop is funded by EU Horizon 2020 project ReROOT: Arrival Infrastructures as Sites of Integration for the Newcomers (https://rerootproject.eu) and organized in collaboration with the Association for Migration Research (Göç Araştırmaları Derneği https://gocarastirmalaridernegi.org/en/ ).

The workshop will be held in a hybrid format. There will be simultaneous (English-Turkish) translation.

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