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IFRC Deep Platform IFRC Turkey Project Secondary Data Review (SDR) Studies Series #2 - Social cohesion between refugee communities and their hosts

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An extensive literature review has been conducted to identify the contextual drivers of social cohesion and to better understand the present and the future of the relationship between refugee and host communities in Turkey. Findings from the available literature show close interpersonal relationships and rareness of reports of physical aggression between refugee and host communities, indicating a high level of social acceptance for over 4.1 million refugees.

On the other hand, several studies point to a correlation between the economic situation and social cohesion; the current Turkish economy is significantly weaker than it was in 2021. While some of the local respondents to available surveys relate the economic downfall to the presence of refugees, there are others reporting that either the quality of public services or their access thereto has been affected. The host community’s security-related concerns constitute another factor impacting social cohesion.

The studies covered in this SDR Report show that part of these concerns is based on misconceptions on the impact of refugees on the country and the society: Available research has for instance shown that the loss of jobs remained limited, while statistics by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that refugee presence does not have a discernible impact on crime rates.

Key studies note that the narrative about refugees vary depending on media outlets, as well as over time. For example, the literature describe how reporting by some outlets has moved from a ́humanitarian narrative, describing the needs of the new arrivals, to an ‘anti-immigrant narrative’ by 2016, highlighting the burden on Turkey of hosting the refugee population. Many other studies found there is limited coverage of refugees’ access to rights, and the voices of the refugees are nearly absent in the public discussion. While Twitter is widely used to spread anti-refugee content, one analyst, Sevilay Çelenk in Duvar, points out that social media does not necessarily reflect the general mood of a society, but the feelings of a limited number of social media users.

Despite the significant support provided by the Government of Turkey, national and international NGOs, there continues to be a need for specific interventions to support relationship building between refugees and their hosts. Recommendations within the literature to further promote social cohesion includes strengthening access to language learning opportunities, working with media to strengthen the representation and visibility of the refugees’ coverage, including awareness campaigns to counter false news, are recommended as well increased international burden sharing, including increasing the number of resettlement spaces.

Additional research is recommended to address remaining information gaps. For instance, there is no systematic analysis on the conditions of all municipalities with an important refugee caseload, nor are reasons for variations in the levels of social cohesion between geographic areas well captured within the existing literature. There is a gap in information on the vertical integration of refugee communities in Turkey which refers to integration within refugee groups in areas such as refugee community civic engagement, refugee community trust in institutions and the extent to which communities feel represented in decision-making processes. Overall, to better understand what drives social cohesion, and to better identify opportunities and challenges, standardized variables and methodologies should be utilized to add to the comprehensiveness of future endeavours.