Academic journal article Migration Letters

The International Migration and Foreign Policy Nexus: The Case of Syrian Refugee Crisis and Turkey

Academic journal article Migration Letters

The International Migration and Foreign Policy Nexus: The Case of Syrian Refugee Crisis and Turkey

Article excerpt


The relationship between 'foreign' and 'immigration and asylum' policy is complex and has significant consequences beyond these policy areas. Despite their ever increasing importance, migration and refugee studies have been rarely tackled within the foreign policy dimension of state's responses, in particular regarding refugee crisis. This paper both demonstrates the importance for and impact of foreign policy orientations on immigration and asylum policies. It questions how 'foreign' policy and 'asylum' policy are intertwined and generate differences in coping with the mass influx with a focus on the Syrian refugee crisis and Turkey's policy responses. We argue that assertive foreign policy of Turkey, particularly willingness to be the actor 'establishing the order' in the Middle East' which led to the 'open-door' and humanitarian asylum policy at the initial stages of refugee flow. However, the isolation of Turkish foreign policy along with the increase in the numbers of refugees necessitated recalibration of the adopted policy towards the one based on 'non-arrival', and 'security' emphasizing 'temporary protection', 'voluntary return' and the 'burden share'.

Keywords: Migration management; mass influx; temporary protection; Turkey's immigration and asylum policy; Turkish foreign policy.


While international migration appears as an important theme in foreign policy; states' foreign policies orientations, decisions and acts have also dramatic effects upon international migrations trends. The relationship between foreign policy and immigration as well as asylum policy, in particular mass influxes has significant consequences not only for these policy areas but also domestic and humanitarian aspects. Despite its importance, the nexus between foreign and immigration policy has rarely been examined except studies addressing the external dimension of the European Union's (EU) action on migration and asylum and the policies of the United States (US) (Borjas, 2001: Boswell, 2003; Guild, 2006; Geddes, 2009; Lavanex & Ucarer, 2004; Tucker and Wrigley, 1990). However, empirical research seems to be lagging behind, particularly studies that question how foreign policy and asylum policy intertwine in other countries which experience mass influxes and refugee crisis.

This study responds to this gap by focusing on foreign-asylum/migration policy nexus in the case of Turkey. The evolution of the Syrian crisis and influx of Syrian refugees to Turkey since 2011 can be regarded as an important case to understand the proposed relationship by considering the characteristics of international protection. In the post-Cold War era, international protection and refugee regime mainly focus on the 'non-arrival policies' that refer to keeping the concerning population where they are as long as possible and supporting the relevant source or transit countries with remote controlling measures and protection (Castles et al., 2014: 226; Papadopoulos, 2007: 98). After 2000, temporary protection and return policies have been introduced extensively and legitimized by the arguments of burden-sharing and securitization discourse. However, Turkey's policies responding the on-going Syrian refugee crisis reflect significant policy shift from general global trend and her previous refugee policies as in Kurdish Iraqi refugee flow in 1988 and 1991. Towards Syrian refugees, Turkish state adopted 'open door' policy, avoided using securitization of refugee movement and did not ask for burden sharing for a long time. Considering the number of refugees, which reached to 1,938,999 as of 14 September 2015, referring to the highest population within the neighbouring countries according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of 9th July 2015, Turkey's policy change, is very much puzzling for students of migration and foreign policy.1

This paper examines the relevance of foreign policy objectives and practices in migration policy making. …

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