IN TRANSIT “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus Original inscription for the statue of Liberty 0_IN TRANSIT Turkey’s geography, history and culture place it in a unique position within the context of Alejandro Aravena’s Reporting from the Front theme for the 2016 Venice biennale. Turkey’s crucial role in defining directions at the ‘front’, between the east and the west - make it a unique country to explore current“frontiers”.
the setting for the drama of the masses who had to leave their homelands in search of a new life because of war, religious intolerance and severe political conflicts and many from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. To those people Turkey has become a land of safety, and its open border policy has certainly saved thousands.
For the 2016 Venice biennale we propose the theme of Reporting from the Front by addressing a highly relevant theme of contemporary society: the ongoing refugee crisis driven by conflict and massive migration from war thorn SyriaIn the last two years Turkey has become the most committed country in addressing the mass migration emergency that followed the conflicts in Syria. The debate that has followed -about hospitality, integration, temporality, permanence, shelter and citizenship - requires the involvement of architects to react in the domain of the profession, addressing the role of architecture, cities and territories within this highly slippery political terrain.
2_PROUD TO BE THE HOST In a short time Turkey has become the largest refugee hosting country in the world, currently hosting over 2.3 million refugees2. The country has, as of September 2015, invested over 7.5 bln euros on its humanitarian response3, including the construction of some of the best refugee camps ever built, complete with schooling, healthcare and social services4. The 24 refugee camps that have been established on the Turkish-Syrian border since March 2011 comprehensively host around 300.000 people that have fled to Turkey since the beginning of the conflicts 3 years ago5. Although the number is high, it represents merely a 15% of the people in need and in search of a new beginning in Turkey. The current solution, nevertheless, drains resources and acknowledging that this is global problem that concerns the international community is an ongoing topic of debate. The European Union is currently discussing a plan to back Turkey with a a sum of 3.2 bln euro, on the premise that Turkey will commit to curb the flow of refugees to Europe. With no foreseeable end to the conflict, the number of upcoming refugees pose a serious challenge to both Turkey and The European Union; the imageof both will be undoubtedly affected by the way they deal and react to this emergency.
1_MIGRATION AS IDENTITY Cities, the highest achievement of sedentary culture, are shaped by the continuos flows of migrations. Migrations have marked the rise and fall of civilizations, and our laws, institutions and architecture have defined over centuries a variety of ways to confront this force. Throughout the mediterranean, commerce has built connections between countries and cultures, and each developed different means to deal with foreigners while between east and west, the silk road granted a safe corridor between countries, allowing a a constant flow of goods, people and ideas. Since the development of the nation-states in the XIX century, policies and rules became more and more the mean to control the flow of people; those who trespassed national borders without permission became illegal immigrants, the only exception to this illegality being granted to “refugees”, a status given to those in an exceptional state of need. In Turkey a variety of beliefs and cultures have coexisted for thousands of years, and, although it was until recently perceived as a “sending country” - having over 3 million nationals living in in the EU- the country has always been both a starting point and a destination for migrants. Since 1923, many have come from the Balkans, from former Soviet countries and, starting from the 1980s, from Iran and Iraq. Half a million Kurdish refugees have arrived in the country in 1988 and 1991, followed by Albanians, Bosnian muslims and Pomaks throughout the 1990s1 . For the past few years, the country has been
1_Içduygu, Ahmet. International Migration and Turkey, 2002: The Country Report for Turkey For the Continuous Reporting System on Migration (SOPEMI)of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), (Paris, OECD, 2002).
In this context, it is needed to rethink the way the refugee camp is designed and the way it operates, and to evaluate its qualities and shortcomings. The refugee camp is the first settlement refugees encounter after crossing the border. These places become for hundreds of thousands the first image of the country, which in principle should embody the highest values of the hosting nation and its citizens. As such, a positive realism is needed to face the theme in the realm of design and planning. The task must be addressed beyond sentimentalism, with the tools and knowledge that the discipline possesses and those that can be developed in collaboration with other professionals.
2_Data from UNHCR accessed on 2-12-2015: http://data.unhcr.org/ syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224 3_http://www.tccb.gov.tr/haberler/410/35539/turkiyenin-yasadigi-surec-pek-cok-ulkeye-ilham-veren-bir-basari-hikyesidir.html 4_http://www.nytimes. com/2014/02/16/magazine/how-to-build-a-perfect-refugee-camp.html?_r=0 5_Data from UNHCR accessed on 2-12-2015: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48e0fa7f.html