International Relations and Migration Management: The Case of Turkey

By Duvell, Franck | Insight Turkey, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

International Relations and Migration Management: The Case of Turkey


Duvell, Franck, Insight Turkey


International relations (IR) or Foreign Affairs (FA) conventionally focus on state actors, international organizations and international non-governmental organisations, on relations and interactions of these and generally on world politics and the global political system. Traditionally, IR was more about political structures and political issues. However, migration has successively become an issue of international politics (1)--there is an increasing body of international law (e.g. Refugee Convention, UN Migrant Workers Convention etc.) and an increasing number of international organizations (UNHCR, IOM, ILO, Global Forum for Migration and Development, ICMPD, Budapest Process etc), that explicitly address international migration. Human agency, however, and the behaviour of people are not normally considered relevant topics in IR. And, yet, it is the very decisions and actions of individuals to migrate that may set states into relation to one another. This contribution firstly, aims to draw attention to the nexus of individual actions and international relations and sketch the importance and implications of migration for IR. Secondly, it thereby looks at the wider context and the relevance of Turkey's new Law no. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection that came into force in April 2013 and the newly established General Directorate for Migration Management (2).

Today, there are more than 232 million international migrants in the world; in absolute terms (though probably not proportionally to the global population) these are more than ever before (3). The majority normally originates from a neighbouring country, a country of the region or a country that shares a common history, language or culture with the receiving country. In migration theory, it is suggested that it is migration systems and migration networks that link together countries and represent the opportunity structures, which may facilitate migration (4). However, globalization, easy travel, and information technology, including social media have broadened these opportunities, which resulted in an increasing diversification of migration. More and more people now migrate to more destinations and to countries where they have no obvious link to and migration has become super-directional. Almost half of these migrants are economic migrants, such skilled and unskilled workers or service providers with a large proportion also being represented by their respective family members. Students are another significant category of international migrants. In addition, there are over 16 million international refugees; these are migrants forced to leave their country. We can also expect in the future some significant climate change induced migration. The majority of migrants and refugees is temporary, seasonal or circular (5); others are more permanent and come to stay.

Simultaneously, international travel has also massively grown in recent years. Air travel has expanded twenty-fold since 1980 and international journeys rose by 50 percent within just a decade to now over 1 billion a year, with an annual growth rate of 5 percent (6). This is the equivalent of almost 15 percent of the global population. This demonstrates that people are more mobile than ever before in world history. As a consequence, more and more people from other countries populate the streets, shopping malls, historical sites, and beaches but also work places in our cities and country-sides. With this dynamic movement of populations comes an uptick in commercial spending, a boost to the economy, and a heightened awareness and desire to learn from each other.

Migration is an important source of change: socially, demographically, and economically (7). Migration links neighbouring or distant countries to each other, by creating greater economic transactions and facilitating an exchange of its people, their knowledge, and culture (8). Migration changes the size, ethnicity and age structure of populations of sending and receiving countries; it alters the cultural, religious, and linguistic composition of societies; and it enriches or deprives societies of their respective social and economic fabric (9). …

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