Esenyurt has developed into a multi-cultural melting pot as a result of the influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in other parts of the world and people who have settled in Istanbul over the course of many years.
Esenyurt, a working-class district located in the far west of Istanbul's European side and home to 300,000 immigrants, has been in the public eye in recent days as a result of restrictions that authorities have imposed on the applications for residence permits made by foreign nationals who have established a diverse enclave in both Esenyurt and another district in Istanbul.
According to the local authorities in the district, certain areas in Esenyurt, which has a population that has reached 1 million, is more populous than 58 provinces in Turkey and has become ghettos housing immigrants from different countries such as Syria, Iran, Uganda, and Afghanistan.
The limitations are being implemented at a time when there is a growing anti-migrant sentiment and xenophobia in Turkey. Turkey is currently sheltering more than 4 million Syrian refugees, in addition to a large number of refugees escaping conflict and instability in their own countries.
"We welcome visitors of foreign nationality, but there is a maximum population that a colony can support." Mayor Kemal Deniz Bozkurt of Esenyurt expressed his satisfaction with the most recent decision made by the Directorate General of Migration Management. "When the population grows, it brings numerous challenges," Bozkurt stated.
In addition to the Esenyurt neighborhood, the ban will also apply to the Fatih district; however, the government will make an exception for overseas students who meet certain requirements.
Official statistics from the previous year show that there were 127,000 Syrians registered as living in Esenyurt. However, it is estimated that the true number of residents is significantly higher than the official statistics.
Balarceşme is the neighborhood in the district that has the biggest percentage of Syrian residents, and as a result, the locals refer to it as "Little Syria." More than half of the neighborhood's population of 28,000 is Syrian, and Arabic signs and boards are displayed in practically all of the local businesses, including barbershops, pharmacies, restaurants, apparel stores, butcher shops, and marketplaces.
"Apart from me, the only other businesses on the street are a single grocery store and a single men's barbershop. Those that are not ours are the property of Syrians. We are part of a smaller group. "We are like outsiders in our own country," said Murat Pastrmac, who has been a tailor in the neighborhood for thirty years. "We are like strangers in our own country."
"This feels very much like a neighborhood in Syria. Here, our monthly rent of 2,000 Turkish Lira (about $270) is far lower than what they pay—more than 4,000 Turkish Lira (about $540). According to Adem Atmaca, a Turkish business owner in Balarceşme, "Shop owners in general prefer them in the neighborhood."
The surrounding African area
Another neighborhood in the district that stands out as a settlement for people with low incomes and African immigrants is called Selahaddin Eyyübi.
Alhan Aydemir, the head (muhtar) of the neighborhood, observed that the low rent prices are what makes the district more popular among Africans. He stated that the number of Africans in the region has expanded fast over the past two to three years.
The majority of Africans arrived in this area from Fatih. He went on to say that "they have their own associations in addition to shops."
The majority of Iranians choose to live in the more prosperous buildings of the Cumhuriyet district, and there are only shops catering to the Iranian and Afghan communities in one section of the neighborhood.
Arabs make up a sizable portion of the population of the Koza neighborhood. Saudi Arabians and Kuwaitis are responsible for the ownership of the vast majority of the real estate in Koza.
There are also a significant number of Nigerians and Ugandans living in Koza who are immigrants. Ugandans have been successful in staking a claim in the neighborhood, where they can also be found operating nightclubs. Parties are frequently hosted at the same location where the "Miss Uganda" beauty contest is also conducted.