Eight years into the Syrian crisis, Turkey continues to be a transit and destination country, hosting three and a half million Syrians within its borders. A majority live in South-eastern Turkey, where IOM, the UN Migration Agency, works to bring Syrian migrant and Turkish host communities together.
At the first IOM Turkey Public Information Summit in Gaziantep on the 24th of November, 40 IOM staff members gathered to learn how strong communications, visibility and storytelling can play a key role in fostering a greater sense of acceptance and integration between the two groups.
At the Summit, 31 IOM project and senior managers attended workshops on IOM key messages and branding, social media outreach, fundamentals of storytelling and writing, and the IOM Community Response App – delivered by nine IOM Public Information staff from national, regional and headquarter offices.
Participants discussed how IOM staff can better harness the power of the media to shift the narrative on migration in a way that promotes the contributions of migrants and debunks popular myths.
“We see many examples where messages of xenophobia and inaccuracies about migration being fed to the public in the media. If we can instead promote positive stories of migration, then we can diffuse some tensions between migrants and host communities,” said Emrah Özesen, IOM Turkey Multimedia Specialist, during a presentation on the media landscape in Turkey and internationally.
As one of the largest IOM missions in the world, IOM Turkey so far this year has served 150,189 people from both migrant and host communities across 12 provinces through livelihood trainings, community outreach, psychosocial support, and education and health services.
“Promoting integration requires changing narratives and influencing public perception on migration by sharing the stories of migrants with dignity and humanity,” said Lanna Walsh, IOM Turkey Public Information Officer.
Participants shared examples of communications campaigns and initiatives that combat xenophobia and portray crisis-affected populations with dignity, such as the United Nations-led TOGETHER campaign and multimedia content produced by IOM Turkey.
Joe Lowry, Senior Regional Media and Communications Officer, also presented on how IOM Turkey’s messages reinforce global IOM priorities, particularly the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), the first international agreement of its kind which the United Nations General Assembly adopted on the 19th of December.
He emphasized the role of communications in highlighting various objectives the Global Compact on Migration aims to achieve – including providing accurate and timely information to migrants; promoting evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration; and strengthening international cooperation and global partnerships.
Lowry highlighted the message and vision of IOM’s new Director General António Vitorino, who said, “The GCM will truly be implemented in IOM’s regional and country offices. We will stay true to our nature, remaining close to migrants and providing solutions to the issues they face. As IOM staff, we not only have to implement these solutions, but we must share the many success stories and positive impact of our work.”
IOM Turkey plans to conduct two more Public Information Summits for staff in Ankara and Istanbul in the coming months.