Sultanbeyli Istanbul, Turkey: A Case Study of Refugees in Towns

Zeynep Balcioglu

Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, April 2018


More than 90 percent of refugees in Turkey live in cities. This case study explores the social integration of refugees in Sultanbeyli, Istanbul and their impact on the neighborhood. The report includes an overview of the Syrian refugee situation in Turkey, focusing on the situation of some 485,227 Syrian refugees in Istanbul. Syrian refugees are mostly clustered in the poorer and more religiously conservative districts of Kucukcekmece, Sultangazi, Bagcilar, and Sultanbeyli. In Sultanbeyli, there are over 20,000 Syrian refugees, 90 percent of whom are from Aleppo. Commonly, a male member of a family establishes themselves in Sultanbeyli before other family members join them (74 percent of refugees chose to settle in Sultanbeyli because they had family there). Many Syrian refugees are unemployed and of those that work, most have jobs in the informal sector with long working hours, no social security, and exposure to other forms of exploitation. Many refugee families stay in their close circles and do not develop new social connections. Refugees view their families as the most reliable source of information about daily life in Sultanbeyli, and most find accommodation or jobs through their own social networks. For refugees, language is the primary barrier to integration. Nevertheless, almost 60 percent of refugee families are content with their neighbors because they feel welcomed. All but a few Syrian refugees in Sultanbeyli are Sunni Muslims, and share similar cultural and religious backgrounds with their Turkish neighbors.