Migration experts from Turkey and other countries, as well as LADDER partners working on the migration path projects, met in Istanbul on 16 November, for a high level conference about the challenges of migration management. The event was organized by Marmara Municipality Union, part of LADDER consortium and member of ALDA.
Local governments in Turkey are on the frontline in tackling migration coming from the Middle East. After the initial emergency management, the situation in Syria, main origin of refugees in the country, is not improving. Communities have therefore faced a number of challenges related to managing refugees inclusion in the mid-long term, and many of them showed incredible goodwill, innovative solutions, and proved that migration per se is never a problem. It is a reality that we need to face together. Delegates from the municipalities of Gaziantep, Avcılar, and Sultanbeyli presented their experiences, and the heroic efforts and mechanisms put in place to ensure a complete integration of refugees in their communities.Following the greetings of the Secretary General of Marmara Municipality Union Dr. Cemil Aslan, Irene Zanetti took the floor on the behalf of ALDA and its President, stressing how crucial local governments are in the day-to-day management of migration, as the work implemented by LADDER migration path points out.
Lorna Muscat from SOS Malta presented more in depth the activities and accomplishments of LADDER migration path, which works on two levels: advocacy, to raise the voice of local and regional governments and change EU policies; and knowledge production and sharing, to allow multiplication of best practices in communities facing similar issues.
Among the institutions represented in the panels are the Turkish Ministry of Interior, UNHCR, ICMPD, Beirut University. All together, the participants transformed the event into a real exchange between representatives of local governments, practitioners, academics, and experts.
The final and very emotional speech was delievered by Mohammed A. Faris, former Syrian astronaut, who fled his country with his family to seek refuge in Turkey. He said that from up above in space he looked at our planet Earth and did not see Syria, but saw the World, of which we are all sons, and brothers one to each other. Mr Cemil Arslan stressed the importance of considering the humans behind numbers when talking about migration and refugees, as well as to conduct awareness raising initiatives aimed at educating citizens in the enlarged Europe on this topic.
Participants were welcomed by a photo exhibition by Mustafa Kocakoç, AFIAP, that set the right mood to starting the debate.