Turkey as a Migration Hub in the Middle East
Elitok, Secil Pacaci, Straubhaar, Thomas, Insight Turkey
Located at the geographical intersection between East and West, with both Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, Turkey has historically been a host country for important population movements. There were several waves of forced (ethnic) movement of populations, as a consequence of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the following nation-building process in the region of modern day Turkey (emigration of Muslim populations from the Balkans to Anatolia and immigration of non-Muslim minority groups).
In the post-Second world war period, Turkey became a country of emigration. In 1961 a bilateral agreement on labor recruitment between Turkey and Germany was signed. In the following years, similar bilateral agreements were reached with several other European countries (Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden).
Nowadays, things have changed. Turkey is still a country of emigration. But it has also become a country of immigration and transit. (1) After the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, immigration from the region to Turkey increased substantially. A lively cross-border movement with the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also with the Middle East countries, has occurred. And therefore, it faces similar challenges of migration and integration that are characteristic of other areas with strong cross-cultural population movements. (2)
Revisiting Migration of Turkey
Emigration from Turkey
In the times of the "Gastarbeiter" system of the 1960s until the early 1970s about 800.000 Turkish workers were recruited to Western Europe. (3) After the economic turbulences consequent to the first oil crisis, Western European countries stopped the recruitment of non-EC-workers. However, those already working in the European Community (EC) could stay and many were even allowed the right to family reunification. Thus, the number of people with a Turkish background living in the European Union (EU) continued to increase, reaching about 2.74 million in 2008 (see Table 1).
In recent decades, there have been five main types of emigration of Turkish citizens to the EU area: "family-related emigration, asylum-seeking, irregular (undocumented or clandestine) labor emigration, contract-related (low-skilled) labor emigration, and emigration of professional and highly-skilled people." (4)
According to Table 1, about 3.38 million people with a Turkish background live outside Turkey today. A 40 percent increase in comparison to 1985. The majority of Turkish migration went to Germany where today around 1,9 million people of Turkish origin now live. While the total has not changed a lot since the mid-1990s, the geographical distribution has become different. In the mid-1990s, about 86 percent of Turks living abroad were in Europe. This share has declined to about 80 percent today.
Migration flows to Europe are down to 50-60,000 a year. The channel for this type of emigration has overwhelmingly been through family formation or family reunification. As reported by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on the basis of provisional results, 30.000 people from Turkey immigrated to Germany in 2009 and 40.000 people have left Germany with the destination of "Turkey." Hence, the direction of migration has reversed between Europe and Turkey. There are now more people emigrating from Germany to Turkey, than people emigrating from Turkey to Germany. (5)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
An increased number of Turkish citizens have gone to the countries of the former Soviet Union. However, compared to the total, the emigration flows to close neighboring countries have remained very small. This is also true for the emigration flows from Turkey to the Middle East. Only about 3 percent of all Turkish citizens living abroad have emigrated to the Middle East.
Interestingly enough, the asylum channel, heavily and controversially debated in the EU and especially in Germany in the 1990s, does not play an important role anymore. Just as an example, Figure 2 shows the strongly declining number of asylum seekers of Turkish origin to Germany in the last decade.
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Immigration to Turkey
Immigration has become more important in the last decade than ever before. Figure 3 shows that in the recent decade 250.000 people per year have immigrated to Turkey. The data includes some rough estimates of undocumented immigration, including illegal immigration, visa holders who have overstayed their allotted period of stay, as well as those who have crossed the border illegally.
The number of foreign nationals living with an official residence and work permit in Turkey is relatively small (just over 170,000, see Figure 3). However, there are also citizens of countries of the former Soviet Union such as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, the Central Asian Republics and to a lesser extent Russia and Ukraine, that come to work in Turkey often illegally in the household and tourism sectors. The Turkish visa system allows these people to commute between their home countries and their jobs in Turkey. Furthermore, there are also Turks with dual citizenship from EU countries, especially Bulgaria and Germany, that come to work in Turkey. Aditionally, to these numbers one can include students as well as retirees. Finally, about 30 percent of all migrants arrive as undocumented migrants and remain in Turkey for undetermined length of time.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
The statistics of immigration to Turkey do not really reflect the whole mobility picture. A clearer picture of the change in migration patterns might be assessed based on entry statistics. In 2009, 25.5 million foreigners arrived in Turkey, (see Table 2) more than twice the number compared to 2000 and eleven times the number of 1990. (6)
The largest numbers of entries continue to come from the EU member countries. Tourism is the major force behind Europeans coming to Turkey, yet short business trips from managers and staff members related to international activities of multinational firms as well as the movement of retirees and students increasingly play an important role in this trend.
Entries from neighboring countries, especially from the areas of the former Soviet Union, have been steadily increasing. They have risen overproportionally by a factor of 24 between 1990 and 2009 (while the average factor for the total of all entries to Turkey was 11). Although most entries from European countries come for leisure purposes, such as holidays and tourism, there are entries of European origin that come for work from Balkans and former Soviet Union. They operate as micro-businesses (often called "suitcase businesses" in Turkey) or are employed as seasonal workers or as private households employees (cleaning, child and elderly care, gardening). Tourism has begun to play a growing role with respect to entries from Russia. With the exception of Iran, entries from the Middle East have been relatively low. But it is likely to increase in the coming years following the recent decision of the Turkish government to lift visa requirements for a number of countries from the Middle …
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Publication information: Article title: Turkey as a Migration Hub in the Middle East. Contributors: Elitok, Secil Pacaci - Author, Straubhaar, Thomas - Author. Journal title: Insight Turkey. Volume: 13. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2011. Page number: 107+. © 2008 SETA Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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