The is the case, the kind of city

The concept of ‘The Right to
the City’ (TRC) was developed by Henri Lefebvre and has since become the centre
of the new urban agenda. TRC refers to the idea that cities behave as spaces of
inequality and resistance and justice for this in embedded in social and
spatial processes; calling for a renewed urban landscape (Lyytinen, 2015). TRC is a moral claim based upon
justice, ethics, morality, and virtue. A ‘right’ is not meant as an enforceable
legal claim, but rather as multiple rights for the same purpose of mobilising a
community in their relationship with the urban and being able to benefit from
the city. Lefebvre explains that it is not the right to the existing city which
is 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 he
condemned to live. Thus, indirectly, in the making of the city, man has
recreated himself” (1967). If this is the case, the kind of city we construct
cannot be separate from what kind of people we want to be and the values we
hold. Through this lens, the right to the city is more than an individual’s
right to access resources the city holds, and is instead a collective right to
change ourselves by changing the city. This makes it a collective right since
being 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 a
demand. This right slowly meanders through the surprising detours of nostalgia
and tourism, the return to the heart of the traditional city, and the call of
existent or recently developed centralities.’ (Lefebvre, 1967, p. 158). Marcuse
believes this ‘demand’ to be urgent and involuntary from those who have been
deprived of basic material and existing legal rights. He explains that this
demand comes from those who are in want, oppressed, or their immediate needs
are unfulfilled e.g. the homeless, the hungry and the persecuted (2009).

Harvey argues that the city is the site of
many political, social and class struggles and that different forms of
urbanisation need to centralise as anti-capitalist struggles. The labour which produces
the 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 prevailing
of capitalist urbanization. Thus, the process of urbanization has become
capitalistic, and acts as a tool to reproduce capitalism in the city. He aims
to provide meaning to TRC which is both anti-capitalist and revolutionary in
nature, not just as a right to citizenship but as a collective struggle by
those who play a role in producing the city to be able to decide what kind of
urbanisation they want. Harvey argues that TRC is one of our most neglected
human rights and must be understood as the struggle for change which dismisses
capitalist urbanisation and instead, re-creates the city in a socialist image
(2003; 2012). TRC is more than just improving the city and its surroundings, it
is about representational control of the urban with the right to use, access
and occupy space. We are not concerned with everyone’s right to the city but
rather those who do not have it now (Frantzanas, 2014).

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Case study: Syrian refugees in Turkey

60 per cent of the global refugee population
reside in urban areas and this figure continues to grow.  As urbanisation continues,
these refugees increasingly find themselves in competition with economic
migrants and long-term urban residents for access to public services and
economic opportunities (UNHCR, 2009). As of December 2017, Turkey hosts
3,424,237 registered Syrian refugees with less than 8 per cent, or 235,000,
living in 22 refugee camps near the Syrian border. Refugees outside of camps
are spread throughout Turkey concentrated in urban areas e.g. Ankara, Antalya,
Mesin and Istanbul, which is home to the largest refugee community at more than
522,000 registered refugees (UNHCR, 2017; Erdogan, 2017; Kiri?ci, 2014). Turkey has
taken a different approach to the refugee crisis compared to that of other
countries; they have implemented a non-camp and government financed approach,
as opposed to directing refugees into camps to become reliant on humanitarian aid
agencies (World Bank, 2018).

 

One of the biggest issues regarding
refugee rights is that Turkey does not apply the 1951 Refugee convention to
non-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 giving
them the ability to stay in Turkey and access services, but their long-term
futures will have to be outside Turkey and, so they are unable to integrate
into Turkish society. Despite these laws, some do still not experience
fundamental freedoms. Current
Turkish labour laws make it difficult for refugees to find work in the formal
economy due to work permits being difficult to obtain. Refugees would need a
valid passport as well as a residence permit and the employer would need to
show that a Turkish national could not be found for the same role. This difficulty
has led to an increase in informal labour for a clear majority of both Syrian
children and adults where they become vulnerable to exploitation. This leads to
a reduction in wages as Syrian refugees are willing to do the same job as
nationals for significantly less, in unregistered work. As a result, locals
become resentful leading to issues of alienation damaging their right to social
integration within urban areas. Daily rates in the Kilis have declined from 60
liras to 20 liras per day and it has been noted that Syrian refugees work for
much lower wages than their Turkish counterparts (UNHCR, 1951; Kiri?ci, 2014). A
study of Syrian households in south-eastern Turkey found that 93 per cent were
living below the national poverty line, and that limited access to stable employment
was linked to food insecurity. This informal sector is an issue of capitalist
structures within Turkey where they are not providing jobs for refugees because
it is both their legal and moral right to freedom and employment, but rather to
keep down the price of
labour and increase profit. The refugee crisis is a
result of consciously reproduced poverty through the oppression and exploitation
of the masses by the few; this is essential to the functioning of capitalism as
is this case of unemployment (Lants, 2008).

Turkish law does not allow
Syrian refugees to apply for resettlement but only temporary protection status.
This gives them access to state services such as health and education as well
as the right to apply for a work permit within certain geographies and
professions. Turkey has been successful in
managing refugee camps and has received praise for the quality of shelter and
services. Camps have granted access to schools, medical centres, recreational
facilities, 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 built
during a time when it was believed it would not last for long and refugees
would be able to return home. No long-term plan has been granted by the
government, and as well constructed as the camps are, this is no way for anyone
to live for the long term. This situation is worse for the 76 per cent of
refugees who live outside of these ‘perfect’ camps as they lack access to basic
amenities and health care where this allowance was not accounted for (Kiri?ci, 2014). Initially, only Syrians
with passports were permitted to stay outside camps, but as the number of
refugees grew, they began to occupy urban spaces. The issue here not only lies
in their lack of access and ability to utilise urban space, but also how long
they might lack this access. Without being incorporated into the long
term social structures of the urban, how can refugees access or experience what
the urban offers? And how can they interact with the citizens? This again,
results in issues of alienation.

More than 50
per 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 Turkey
had no access to education and only 60 per cent of those in camps did have
access to the education provided for them (2014; UNHCR, 2014). It is necessary
to recognise the number of barriers associated with educating refugees when
understanding why these figures ae so high; these include language, curriculum
and qualification discrepancies. For example, should refugees be educated under
the assumption that they will eventually return to Syria? Having said this, it
is necessary for the government to tackle this challenge as It could otherwise
result in a ‘lost generation’ of Syrians. This is also a legal obligation as Turkey
is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which indicates all
children must have access to education regardless of their nationality (Kiri?ci, 2014).

There are many social issues
which develop because of displacement, mainly due to the differences in laws
and culture. Turkish civil law does not permit polygamy and many Syrian women have
entered households as second and third wives; leading to social tensions,
alienation and seclusion. There have been reports of divorce rates as well as
an 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 their
mothers encounter much social stigma, as well as difficulties registering the
birth; the same issue with those children who are born outside Syrian camps. It
is also unclear whether Syrian authorities will one day recognise the
registration of births taking place in Turkish camps and leave these children
without citizenship. As of January 2014, according to Davutoglu, there were
just under 8,500 babies born in refugee camps. Furthermore, the inability of
obtaining official documentation from Syria pertaining to personal status makes
it impossible to register civil marriages with Turkish authorities. These
developments in turn fuel growing resentment towards refugees among local
populations (Kiri?ci, 2014).

Turkey is host to over three
million Syrian refugees and, so it isn’t surprising that they are not all receiving
the 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 whether
that be physically or financially. The EU governments need to play their part
and share global responsibility to provide these refugees their rights. However,
to ultimately address refugees lack of TRC, a global and comprehensive
approach is needed. We must
rethink the way in which are cities operate to become less capitalistic and
allow for a more inclusive meaning of ‘the right to the city’. Harvey would
like us to recreate the city in a socialist image. This can be done by
demanding change where the focus of policy and governments is based upon fulfilling
our moral obligations to one another so that everyone can fully access the
urban without fear of poverty,
persecution, safety and homelessness. In the refugee
crisis, this can only be helped by putting focus on the displaced, homeless and
refugees with protective status.