Project El-Aziz City for a long term solution in Syrian refugee crisis

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September 2015

Everyone of us have seen enough heartbreaking photos of Syrian refugees (especially the little Aylan!) but mostly we could only condemn the authorities and donate charities. We decided that we can do more and now present you our proposal of establishing a semi-autonomous refugee oriented city in Eastern Turkey.

City of Elazığ sits in a developing eastern part of Turkey, surrounded by the Euphrates river and its large man-made lakes, Keban and Karakaya. The present name was a replacement of El-Aziz, a word that means in both Turkish and Arabic honorable, powerful, respected person.

We suggest that the area around the city of Elazığ can be assigned borders very easily to form a possible ground to host fleeing families (see infographic). According to UNHCR 3 million fled Syria. The area currently hosts 400,000 residents with 3,864 square km to spare. In contrast, Singapore hosts 5 million people in a 718 km2 space. This means the area of "El-Aziz" can host significantly more if planned and developed similar to Singapore.

Our suggestion is NOT another refugee camp. Syrian refugees are business people, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers, people from all walks of life. And they want to work to earn their living. By locking them in refugee camps or letting them drown in the ocean won't give that. We need to act and make a difference now!

So, why should we set up this city in Elazığ?

  1. Surrounded by plenty of FRESH water
  2. Total land based border is only 27 km over 290 km (ONLY 9 %) enabling fast border setup
  3. Includes a small, established city (Elazığ), with a fully functional airport, hospitals, schools, mosques.
  4. Not too far from Syria. Please CLICK HERE to see the planned city on a Google Map.
  5. A developing region, available for a new project

The El-Aziz City will be:

  • Type: Free trade mega-zone with incentives such as tax breaks (for 49 years)
  • Leadership: Governor appointed by Turkish state. Governor appoints the ruling council.
  • Mayor: Elected by the people
  • Police Chief: Appointed by the Turkish state
  • Border protection: By Turkish army and Ministry of Customs
  • Citizenship: Special ID (for all people living and working in the area) and Passports for the refugees.
  • Border rules: Passport required for entry to Turkey (refugees will not be permitted to leave the area by land unless they get a visa). Deportation rules will apply for illegal attempts.
  • Time limits: No time limits for the refugees. They can stay forever. 
  • Citizens of good standing (for a minimum of 5 years) may be granted special permit to leave city freely. 

The city state will be ruled by a ruling council (no more than 5 members) that consists of:

  1. Governor: President of the ruling council. Represents the city in Turkey and abroad.
  2. Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Vice president of the ruling council. Executes all affairs and manages the city. Leads other chiefs, project managers, city planning and reports to the Governor.
  3. Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Finance chief. Takes care of accounts, taxes, credits, aids, all financial matters. Responsible for central bank, tax collectors, aid distribution (initially), project financing/credits. 
  4. Chief Labor Officer (CLO): Labor and human resources chief. Regulates all work force, provides all rights of labor and immigration. Works with customs head, trade department, investment bureau, immigration/citizenship. 
  5. Chief Services Officer (CSO): Oversees services to citizens. Hospitals, schools, courts, police, water, electricity. Also deals with family matters. Supervises superintendent, head of hospitals, judiciary, mayor, sheriff, housing department.

The finances for this city will be designed such that it doesn't need any aid or become self-sufficient very quickly. Initial investments will need substantial credits from lenders such as IMF and World Bank. Private investors can also be invited.

The steps for the city development would be as follows:

STEP 1: Relocation of 100,000 refugees by summer of 2016

  1. Immediate need will be housing. Before the winter, we must provide housing to all refugees. These will be 30 m2 (single parents), 60 m2 (small families), 90 m2 (multiple, extended families – more than one couple). 200 buildings with 100 units each will be necessary (assuming 5 people per unit).
  2. Once all new citizens are given Special ID (SID) the head of the household will use his/her as a credit card to buy food and medicine (max 1000 liras per family). They will have to pay this debt by working and earning money. The family will need to start paying rent after the first year.
  3. The employers have to provide insurance and other benefits to the employees.
  4. Investors will have privileges of no export tariffs, customs fees and limited tax – only goes to city budget. The more refugees you employ the more privileges your company will receive. 
  5. Doctors, engineers, builders, barbers, tailors, teachers, etc. will be preferentially hired among refugees. We need 10,000 jobs within the first year (considering the immediate need for construction workers this will be realistic). 

STEP 2: Relocation of 400,000 refugees by summer of 2017

  1. Super sized residences are necessary. 1000 more buildings.
  2. The construction projects should employ predominantly from the refugees.
  3. Police officers, health workers, teachers should be all from refugees.
  4. City budget must be able to pay for its own needs. Time to start paying back credits.
  5. Expansion of the airport and railways. 

STEP 3: Maintaining a healthy population approx. 2,000,000 by summer of 2020

  1. Educated/recovered refugees may leave to get jobs elsewhere and taking families with them.
  2. Some refugee entrepreneurs will start companies and international trade, donating back to the city.

Click here to download/show a copy of the WHOLE presentation in a single file.

Contact: Prof. Cafer T. Yavuz,; Dr. F. Betül Yavuz,

1 comment:

  1. This sounds great! Hope Turkish government agrees.