Durch Geflüchtete aus Syrien ist die Bevölkerung von Gaziantep um ein Drittel gewachsen. Stephen Burgen spricht in einem Artikel im Guardian vom 19.06.2019 von einem „Modell der Toleranz und des Pragmatismus“.

Gaziantep has a thriving textile industry and is the home of the pistachio; its food is reputed to be so good that people fly down from Istanbul just for lunch. It is also just 60 miles from Aleppo, the Syrian city devastated by war.

In April 2011, 252 refugees arrived in Turkey from the Aleppo area. One year later, there were 23,000 in the country; by 2015, 2 million. Today there are 3.6 million Syrian refugees (or protected persons, as they are officially known) in Turkey, with the majority living in the south, in places such as Gaziantep.

In one 24-hour period alone, Gaziantep took in 200,000 people. To put that in perspective, Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, with a population of 15 million, hosts 560,000 refugees in total. Gaziantep has just a 10th of the population but took in 500,000. […]

Under the Ottoman empire, before the modern states of Turkey and Syria existed, Gaziantep and Aleppo were part of the same region. The refugees tend to stay in the south of Turkey, close to what was home, because they have a shared history and there is a demand for unskilled labour.

There is no doubt, however, that the newcomers have put a huge strain on the city’s resources – above all on housing, water, public transport and healthcare. With the crisis now in its seventh year and more than half the refugees under 18, education is a concern.

“Initially we had to provide food, clothing and temporary shelter,” says Onder Yalcin, head of the city’s migration office. “We rented hotels and put people up in sports centres. We made a public appeal for help and people brought food, blankets, clothes, cooking stoves, all sorts of things. People took the most vulnerable, such as mothers with young babies, into their homes.”

Early on, the Turkish government pursued a policy of integrating the newcomers into urban areas, rather than let them fester in refugee camps. Only 4% still live in camps.

This put pressure, however, on the existing housing stock in Gaziantep, forcing up rents. Employers, meanwhile, took advantage of the sudden increase in the workforce to push down wages. There was also conflict over access to drinking water, and burgeoning resentment that the aid pouring in was going to Syrians, not to poor Turks. […]

It was precisely to avoid this sort of conflict that the city adopted a new approach, based on integration.

The mayor, Fatma Sahin, established a migration management department. The idea was that Turks and migrants would receive equal treatment and benefits.

It persuaded the government to pipe in water from over 80 miles away to address the water crisis, and then set up a plan to build 50,000 new homes, as well as new hospitals and better public services. All were available to Turks and migrants alike.

“I said to them, we have to work together,” Yalçin says. “We are aiming for social cohesion, because Turkish and Syrian people are going to live together here, and if you only help Syrians there is going to be tension.

“We said: ‘When you help Syrians in the same neighbourhoods where Turkish people have the same needs, you have to help them, too.’ They said their funds were just for migrants and we said: ‘Talk to your donors. And if you’re not prepared to work with us, then you should leave.’”

Gaziantep: How a small Turkish city successfully absorbed half a million migrants