How do local actors interpret, enact and contest policy? an analysis of local government responses to meeting the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey

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Although 98% of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees live outside camps, municipalities lack formal authority to initiate policies, while receiving no government funding for refugees. Drawing on interpretive policy analysis (IPA), the article unpacks the empirical puzzle of how formally weak local governments respond to refugee needs. IPA expects policy to be constituted through diverse sets of local meanings. Case studies in three districts in Istanbul revealed distinctive local narratives, some of which consolidated the national agenda of ‘hospitality’ while others focused on equal rights and integration. Municipal narratives reflected particular local contexts, selectively mobilizing deeper governing traditions. Local interpretations were enacted in specific approaches to refugee service delivery. Working with local NGOs, municipalities accessed international funds, despite national government’s vociferous critique of EU refugee policy. Even in an increasingly authoritarian setting, refugee policy was being constituted through multiple and contingent processes of local government interpretation.

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Publisher Copyright: © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group


Original languageEnglish
JournalLocal Government Studies
Early online date21 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2020


  • Local government, Turkey, Syrian refugees, Intepretivism, Interpretivist Policy Analysis, interpretivism, Turkish local government, syrian refugees, interpretive policy analysis