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Why Bother? Local Bureaucrats’ Motivations for Providing Social Services for Refugees

Published onAug 29, 2022
Why Bother? Local Bureaucrats’ Motivations for Providing Social Services for Refugees

Turkey is currently hosting the largest number of urban refugees in the world. Around 4 million refugees live in non-camp, urban spaces in Turkey. In the absence of a national integration policy, many municipalities go an extra mile to accommodate refugees, taking the risk of following a divergent path from their political parties’ responses to the crisis in question. This provides a novel case to study the formation of unique local responses to migration in highly centralized authoritarian state structures. Using 76 structured interviews and an original survey with 268 local municipal bureaucrats, this paper finds that the decision to introduce municipal social services for refugees at the local level is largely made by mid-level bureaucrats at local municipalities who work closely with a diverse group of stakeholders including the mayor, constituents, local civil society organizations, political parties, and refugees. Whereas contrary to the literature on bureaucratic incorporation of immigrants and refugees, I argue that municipal accommodation does not always emanate from altruistic motivations and/or professional duty to serve persons in need. In fact, municipal staff often incorporate refugees into municipal social services not because they perceive them as “deserving”, but for political motives. By providing services, they can insert control over and discipline refugee groups while safeguarding electoral support for the mayor. 

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