Presentation from Turkey Team

Turkey’s Immigration Policy Profile and Its Reforms.
When one thinks of Turkey as a country of
immigration, one often sees Turkey as a “new”
country of immigration, devoid of any real
immigration policy, and one which needs to catch up
with Europe and adopt appropriate policies. This is
only partly correct. Turkey is historically a country
that has received important inflows of immigration,
especially from the Balkans, all throughout the 20th
century. But, this fact was overshadowed by the
large influx of Turkish migrants into Europe starting
in the 1960s, which, on the international migration
scene, characterized Turkey as a country of
Similarly, Turkey had an immigration policy,
articulated principally in the Law on
immigration of migrants of “Turkish culture or
origin”, and the rights to which they would
have access as they ettled on Turkish
territory.8 Turkey was also among the
drafters and first signatories of the Geneva
Convention in 1951, practically granting
Turkey with an asylum policy.9
However, these existing policies came to a serious crisis
by the end of the Cold War, when the sudden qualitative
and quantitative change in migration flows in the region
rendered existing regulations largely irrelevant and
archaic. By the 1990s, a large majority of newcomers
coming from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to
Turkey were “foreigners”(i. e., “non-Turkish”), and could
not be accepted in Turkey under the Law on Settlement.
Likewise, most of the asylum seekers were coming from
non-European countries (mainly Iran and Iraq) and
therefore would not qualify as Convention refugees
under the geographical limitation of the Geneva
Convention that Turkey maintained.10
Turkey’s Asylum Policy and
 In the West, Turkey is traditionally known as a country
of emigration. Yet, Turkey, like its predecessor the
Ottoman Empire, has long been a country of
immigration especially for Muslim ethnic groups,
ranging from Bosnians to Pomaks and Tatars, as well
as Turks from the Balkans and to a lesser extent from
the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Between 1923 and 1997, more than 1.6 million
immigrants came and settled in Turkey.3
Furthermore, after the Nazi takeover in Germany
and then during the Second World War, there
were many Jews who fled to Turkey and then
resettled in Palestine. There were also many who
fled the German-occupied Balkans for Turkey and
returned to their homelands after the war had
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey
has also become a country receiving an
increasing number of irregular workers and
immigrants from Balkan countries and former
Soviet Republics as well as Iran, Northern Iraq
and Africa. These often include people that
overstay their visa and work illegally. Turkey
has also been a country of asylum, and is
among the original signatories of the 1951
Geneva Convention.
However, Turkey is today among a very small
number of countries that still maintains a
geographical limitation to the agreement’s
applicability as defined in Article 1, b(1)(a) of the
Convention.4 Accordingly, Turkey does not grant
refugee status to asylum seekers coming from
outside Europe but has to extend temporary
protection, and hence maintains a two-tiered
asylum policy.
For the first time in 2010, fifty years past
the beginning of extensive migration from
Turkey to Europe, the number of migrants
to Turkey exceeds that of the number of
migrants from Turkey. Added to this is an
increase in the number of returnees.11
Içduygu, A. 2010. International Migration
and Turkey, 2010 OECD SOPEMI Report,
Turkey’s former role as a
“migrant-sending country” is
now supplemented with the role
of a “migrant-receiving country”.
International migratory movements to Turkey since
the end of 1970s have included the migration of
transit migrants, irregular migrant workers (mostly
from the former USSR and Eastern European
countries), asylum-seekers and refugees (from
Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and various other Asian and
African countries).
The migration of professionals and
retirees are also taking place. In sum, a
migratory transition has taken place in
Turkey in the last decades.
Outward migration
In 2005, an estimated 3 million Turkish citizens
were living in Europe, approximately 105,000
Turkish workers in the Middle East countries and
75,000 workers in the CIS states.Turkish
Migrant Stock Abroad in 1995, 2005 and
2010 Some 350,000 Turkish citizens were
reported in other countries such as Australia,
Canada and the USA.
The total number of expatriates equalled 3.3
million (which excludes the number of emigrants
from Turkey who were naturalized in receiving
countries). This number implies 5% of the nation’s
total population living outside of Turkey. By 2010,
the number has increased to 3.7 million, while the
migrant stock in Germany has decreased over the
Inward migration
 The most recent reliable data on the foreign-born
population in Turkey is taken from the 2000 Census;
data was disseminated by the State Institute of
Statistics in 2002. According to the Census,
1,278,671 foreign-born persons were in Turkey in
2000 which is less than 2% of the Turkish
population. First five foreign-born groups were
Bulgarian-, German-, Greek-, Macedonian- and
Until recently, immigration to Turkey was
constituted exclusively by an ethnically Turkish
population. In recent decades, however, Turkey
has experienced the immigration of transit
migrants, clandestine labourers, asylum-seekers
and refugees. The influx of foreign nationals
mostly from bordering and neighbouring
countries has continued to increase.
Added to this are the more recent legal
migrations of professionals and skilled migrants
and the ongoing immigration of foreign-national
ethnic-Turks living in other countries.
Total Number of Arrivals and Departures of
Non-nationals by Year
Arrival and departure statistics provide a basis for
estimating people’s mobility in and out of Turkey.
From 2006 to 2011, the number of non-nationals
arriving in Turkey (one third from neighbouring
regions, the Middle East, EU and CIS countries)
increased to over 52%. Arrivals from CIS
countries were markedly higher in 2010 and
Main types of inflows are the migration of
ethnic-Turks in the form of asylum, transit
migration flows, illegal labour migration and
registered migration of non-nationals (first three
types often overlap).
Turkey has become a major country of asylum
since the 1980s. From late 1990s to the early
2000s, Turkey received approximately 5000-6000
asylum applications a year. The number reached
16,000 in 2011 leading UNHCR to announce Turkey
as among the top five asylumreceiving countries in
the world. Mass migration from Syria triggered by the
uprisings and the civil war, started in spring 2011,
has made of Turkey the third largest receiver of
Syrian refugees after Lebanon and Jordan.
The Socio-Political Framework of
 Located at the junction of Europe, Asia and MENA (Middle
East and North Africa), with Mediterranean and Black sea
coasts, Turkey has always been one of the most important
paths for large migration movements. Due to its geopolitical significance, Turkey became the nexus of
emigration, immigration and transit migration. Closeness
both to the EU Area and MENA made Turkey a crucial
player in terms of migratory regimes.
Turkey’s role became even more important in the
aftermath of the Arab Spring which led to Syrian
migration to Turkey. Turkey’s migration policy has
changed considerably since the early 2000s in attempts
to satisfy EU membership criteria. Among the reforms
harmonizing Turkey’s legislation in the justice, freedom
and security area with the EU acquis, the most
important step was the Law on Foreigners and
International Protection which has recently been
approved by the Grand National Assembly.
It will introduce a new legal and institutional
framework for migration and asylum and was
welcomed by the EU as a clear sign of Turkey’s
efforts to establish an effective migration
management system in line with EU standards.
Despite the steps undertaken, there are three
unresolved critical issues. First, Turkey applies a
geographical limitation to refugees and does not
recognize the status of refugees to persons from nonEuropean countries. To solve this dilemma, UNHCR
intervenes to identify third country resettlement
opportunities for non-European asylum seekers whose
applications are approved. Without the guarantee of
full-membership, Turkey is reluctant to lift the
geographical limitation because of the fear of becoming
a buffer zone.
Second, due to her stable political atmosphere and
Steady economic growth, Turkey became a magnet
country pulling migrants from neighboring regions.
The EU’s fear is not for Turkish nationals who may
migrate to Europe following accession, but, instead,
the irregular flow of third-country nationals who use
Turkey as a transit country.
Turkey’s visa-free policy with some of its neighbors
(Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt etc.) have caused
serious concerns in the EU with respect to border
management, especially since the crisis in Syria.
According to the 2012 Progress Report39, the
number of third-country nationals detected in 2011
by EU Member States when entering or attempting
to enter the EU illegally and coming directly from
or transiting through Turkish territory stood at
55,630. A readmission Agreement and a Visa
Facilitation agreements scheme are under
In June 2012, Turkey and the EU finalized the
Readmission Agreement; however, it has yet to
be signed due to Turkey’s understandable
concerns at unfair burden sharing. The
agreement’s ratification implies Turkey’s and the
EU’s agreement to readmit illegal aliens within
their borders. The EU, in turn, promises to lighten
visa requirements for Turkish nationals.
In addition to these constraints, Turkey faces a major
challenge in the field of migration. Since the
foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923,
migration policy has been designed within the context
of nation building with the intention of establishing a
homogeneous identity. Hence, immigrants without
Turkish descent and culture are seen as a threat to
Turkish and Muslim identity. Turkey’s current ambition
to become an EU member and the accompanying
political liberalization is straining the state’s traditional
concept of national identity.
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