We can't integrate in Europe. We will pay a high price if we go there': culture, time and migration aspirations for Syrian refugees in Istanbul (2020)
in: Journal of refugee studies
ISSN: 0951-6328 (print), 1471-6925 (electronic)
In popular media, it is often assumed that Syrian refugees wish to reach Europe by any means necessary but, during field research in 2018, we found that many Syrians hoped to remain in Istanbul, despite their tenuous legal and social situation. The article examines how migrants established cultural intimacy and strong community social networks over time, and became increasingly sceptical about the life they imagined they would have in Europe. Addressing research on migration aspirations, we show that migration decisions are strongly affected by experiences in a transit country. Most research on aspirations stresses economic drivers and rational choices, but here we highlight the importance of emotions, the qualitative feeling of acceptance and safety, temporal effects and the growing feeling of being home over time. Prior research with Turkey's Syrians has pointed to the significance of culture and social networks for creating a sense of being at home. This research explores these issues in more detail to show how culture, religion and gender are interlinked in migrant imaginings, how social networks evolve and how Europe is imagined.