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Peer-to-peer workshop and visitors’ programme in Gaziantep

Sharing lessons learned on strategies and results for the integration of Syrian refugees in host communities

For three days, from 12 to 14 September 2017, participants met in the Turkish city of Gaziantep for an international peer-to-peer workshop, plus an extensive visitors' programme. The conference was organised by the Qudra Programme (a regional programme funded by the Madad Foundation of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)) together with Engagement Global's Service Agency Communities in One World and the Turkish non-governmental organisation the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM).

The workshop set out to provide German, Turkish and other European municipalities with an opportunity to share, in depth, lessons learned with strategies, instruments and results of existing measures to integrate Syrian refugees into their host communities. A second aim was to facilitate joint learning and exchange on instruments to promote the participation of refugees in planning processes and the implementation of municipal integration measures.

Around 30 people took part in the workshop. These included representatives of the Turkish municipalities of Hatay, Adana, Kilis, Sanliurfa, Tepebasi/Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Istanbul and Ankara, GIZ staff members from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, staff members of the Turkish non-governmental organisation ASAM, and three further delegates from other countries in Europe (Iceland and Croatia).

During the workshop the contributions made by the moderators and participants were professional and to the point. The atmosphere of the discussion permitted intensive exchange, which in some cases included posters with specific profiles prepared by municipal delegates. The notion of 'fake participation' was the subject of lively debate. This term was interpreted as meaning being called upon to express an opinion without having sufficient information or time in which to form an opinion, and without knowing what would happen to that opinion once it was expressed. 'Participation' was interpreted as always meaning being able to say 'no' without fear of sanctions. When evaluating the workshop participants emphasised the high quality of both moderators, who through their openness and empathy facilitated exchange and joint learning. The majority of municipal actors emphasised the need for greater autonomy of municipalities for integration measures, as local circumstances vary widely. They also advocated taking the number of refugees into account in the financial allocations made by central institutions. Participants saw cooperation with national and international NGOs in a basically positive light, but pointed out that municipalities need to play a strong coordinating role in order to ensure the sustainability of measures and projects.

On Thursday, 14 September 2017, Önder Yalcin, Director of the Municipal Office for Integration in Gaziantep, accompanied the workshop participants on a visit to two integration projects. At the Ensar Community Centre chiefly Syrian, but also Turkish, children and adults are being taught by Syrian and Turkish teachers. The second visit was to the Children's Art Centre, which is run by the city's culture department. During the summer holidays, together with artists Turkish and Syrian children had produced works of art that were on show here in the building.

On the afternoon of the same day, participants visited two other centres run by ASAM. At the Peace and Art Centre, until recently Syrian children were being taught and Turkish children were being supported through an extensive recreational programme. Lessons had to be stopped recently because the procedures for licensing tuition courses had been changed by the Ministry of National Education. The centre is funded through the Qudra project. GIZ and ASAM believe it will soon be possible to resume the lessons. At the second institution – the Yesilsu Multi Service Support Centre – social, legal and health counselling is provided, and language and other courses are held for refugees in all age groups. This is where ASAM maintains an office for its work in the south-eastern region.