The concept of ‘The Right tothe City’ (TRC) was developed by Henri Lefebvre and has since become the centreof the new urban agenda. TRC refers to the idea that cities behave as spaces ofinequality and resistance and justice for this in embedded in social andspatial processes; calling for a renewed urban landscape (Lyytinen, 2015). TRC is a moral claim based uponjustice, ethics, morality, and virtue. A ‘right’ is not meant as an enforceablelegal claim, but rather as multiple rights for the same purpose of mobilising acommunity in their relationship with the urban and being able to benefit fromthe city.
Lefebvre explains that it is not the right to the existing city whichis being demanded, rather the right to the future city. Robert Park stated that’if the city is the world which man created, it is the world in which is hecondemned to live. Thus, indirectly, in the making of the city, man hasrecreated himself” (1967). If this is the case, the kind of city we constructcannot be separate from what kind of people we want to be and the values wehold.
Through this lens, the right to the city is more than an individual’sright to access resources the city holds, and is instead a collective right tochange ourselves by changing the city. This makes it a collective right sincebeing able to change the city relies on collective power over urbanisation(Harvey, 2003. Lefebvre says ‘… the right to the city is like a cry and ademand. This right slowly meanders through the surprising detours of nostalgiaand tourism, the return to the heart of the traditional city, and the call ofexistent or recently developed centralities.’ (Lefebvre, 1967, p. 158).
Marcusebelieves this ‘demand’ to be urgent and involuntary from those who have beendeprived of basic material and existing legal rights. He explains that thisdemand comes from those who are in want, oppressed, or their immediate needsare unfulfilled e.g.
the homeless, the hungry and the persecuted (2009).Harvey argues that the city is the site ofmany political, social and class struggles and that different forms ofurbanisation need to centralise as anti-capitalist struggles. The labour which producesthe city and its infrastructure and those who ‘create’ life in the city i.e.construction workers and social groups, are lacking the TRC due to the prevailingof capitalist urbanization.
Thus, the process of urbanization has becomecapitalistic, and acts as a tool to reproduce capitalism in the city. He aimsto provide meaning to TRC which is both anti-capitalist and revolutionary innature, not just as a right to citizenship but as a collective struggle bythose who play a role in producing the city to be able to decide what kind ofurbanisation they want. Harvey argues that TRC is one of our most neglectedhuman rights and must be understood as the struggle for change which dismissescapitalist urbanisation and instead, re-creates the city in a socialist image(2003; 2012). TRC is more than just improving the city and its surroundings, itis about representational control of the urban with the right to use, accessand occupy space. We are not concerned with everyone’s right to the city butrather those who do not have it now (Frantzanas, 2014).
Case study: Syrian refugees in Turkey60 per cent of the global refugee populationreside in urban areas and this figure continues to grow. As urbanisation continues,these refugees increasingly find themselves in competition with economicmigrants and long-term urban residents for access to public services andeconomic opportunities (UNHCR, 2009). As of December 2017, Turkey hosts3,424,237 registered Syrian refugees with less than 8 per cent, or 235,000,living in 22 refugee camps near the Syrian border. Refugees outside of campsare spread throughout Turkey concentrated in urban areas e.g. Ankara, Antalya,Mesin and Istanbul, which is home to the largest refugee community at more than522,000 registered refugees (UNHCR, 2017; Erdogan, 2017; Kiri?ci, 2014). Turkey hastaken a different approach to the refugee crisis compared to that of othercountries; they have implemented a non-camp and government financed approach,as opposed to directing refugees into camps to become reliant on humanitarian aidagencies (World Bank, 2018). One of the biggest issues regardingrefugee rights is that Turkey does not apply the 1951 Refugee convention tonon-Europeans and according to EU officials, they do not provide an ‘equivalent’protection level (?çduygu,2015).
For non-European refugees,Turkey may provide limited protection in the form of a temporary status givingthem the ability to stay in Turkey and access services, but their long-termfutures will have to be outside Turkey and, so they are unable to integrateinto Turkish society. Despite these laws, some do still not experiencefundamental freedoms. CurrentTurkish labour laws make it difficult for refugees to find work in the formaleconomy due to work permits being difficult to obtain.
Refugees would need avalid passport as well as a residence permit and the employer would need toshow that a Turkish national could not be found for the same role. This difficultyhas led to an increase in informal labour for a clear majority of both Syrianchildren and adults where they become vulnerable to exploitation. This leads toa reduction in wages as Syrian refugees are willing to do the same job asnationals for significantly less, in unregistered work. As a result, localsbecome resentful leading to issues of alienation damaging their right to socialintegration within urban areas.
Daily rates in the Kilis have declined from 60liras to 20 liras per day and it has been noted that Syrian refugees work formuch lower wages than their Turkish counterparts (UNHCR, 1951; Kiri?ci, 2014). Astudy of Syrian households in south-eastern Turkey found that 93 per cent wereliving below the national poverty line, and that limited access to stable employmentwas linked to food insecurity. This informal sector is an issue of capitaliststructures within Turkey where they are not providing jobs for refugees becauseit is both their legal and moral right to freedom and employment, but rather tokeep down the price oflabour and increase profit. The refugee crisis is aresult of consciously reproduced poverty through the oppression and exploitationof the masses by the few; this is essential to the functioning of capitalism asis this case of unemployment (Lants, 2008).
Turkish law does not allowSyrian refugees to apply for resettlement but only temporary protection status.This gives them access to state services such as health and education as wellas the right to apply for a work permit within certain geographies andprofessions. Turkey has been successful inmanaging refugee camps and has received praise for the quality of shelter andservices. Camps have granted access to schools, medical centres, recreationalfacilities, vocational training programmes and a whole host of other amenities,which have led to them being used as an example of ‘the perfect refugee camp'(McClelland, 2014). However, the issue lies in the long-term plans for refugees;the conflict within Syria is not due to end soon and these camps were builtduring a time when it was believed it would not last for long and refugeeswould be able to return home. No long-term plan has been granted by thegovernment, and as well constructed as the camps are, this is no way for anyoneto live for the long term. This situation is worse for the 76 per cent ofrefugees who live outside of these ‘perfect’ camps as they lack access to basicamenities and health care where this allowance was not accounted for (Kiri?ci, 2014).
Initially, only Syrianswith passports were permitted to stay outside camps, but as the number ofrefugees grew, they began to occupy urban spaces. The issue here not only liesin their lack of access and ability to utilise urban space, but also how longthey might lack this access. Without being incorporated into the longterm social structures of the urban, how can refugees access or experience whatthe urban offers? And how can they interact with the citizens? This again,results in issues of alienation.More than 50per cent of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18.
Whilst statistics are unreliable,UNICEF estimated that 74 per cent of those children outside of camps in Turkeyhad no access to education and only 60 per cent of those in camps did haveaccess to the education provided for them (2014; UNHCR, 2014). It is necessaryto recognise the number of barriers associated with educating refugees whenunderstanding why these figures ae so high; these include language, curriculumand qualification discrepancies. For example, should refugees be educated underthe assumption that they will eventually return to Syria? Having said this, itis necessary for the government to tackle this challenge as It could otherwiseresult in a ‘lost generation’ of Syrians. This is also a legal obligation as Turkeyis a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which indicates allchildren must have access to education regardless of their nationality (Kiri?ci, 2014).
There are many social issueswhich develop because of displacement, mainly due to the differences in lawsand culture. Turkish civil law does not permit polygamy and many Syrian women haveentered households as second and third wives; leading to social tensions,alienation and seclusion. There have been reports of divorce rates as well asan increase in depression among women in the cities of Hatay and Kilis (Kiri?ci, 2014). Subsequently,many children are born out-of-wed-lock and these children along with theirmothers encounter much social stigma, as well as difficulties registering thebirth; the same issue with those children who are born outside Syrian camps. Itis also unclear whether Syrian authorities will one day recognise theregistration of births taking place in Turkish camps and leave these childrenwithout citizenship. As of January 2014, according to Davutoglu, there werejust under 8,500 babies born in refugee camps. Furthermore, the inability ofobtaining official documentation from Syria pertaining to personal status makesit impossible to register civil marriages with Turkish authorities.
Thesedevelopments in turn fuel growing resentment towards refugees among localpopulations (Kiri?ci, 2014).Turkey is host to over threemillion Syrian refugees and, so it isn’t surprising that they are not all receivingthe support they need, or their rights fulfilled as refugees. In this situation,the EU is morally and legally responsible to lessen this burden or task whetherthat be physically or financially. The EU governments need to play their partand share global responsibility to provide these refugees their rights. However,to ultimately address refugees lack of TRC, a global and comprehensiveapproach is needed. We mustrethink the way in which are cities operate to become less capitalistic andallow for a more inclusive meaning of ‘the right to the city’.
Harvey wouldlike us to recreate the city in a socialist image. This can be done bydemanding change where the focus of policy and governments is based upon fulfillingour moral obligations to one another so that everyone can fully access theurban without fear of poverty,persecution, safety and homelessness. In the refugeecrisis, this can only be helped by putting focus on the displaced, homeless andrefugees with protective status.