- Demographic Mobility and Turkey:Migration Experiences and Government Responses
At the beginning of a new millennium, migration and its management have posed a fundamental challenge to both the theory and practice of governance in contemporary societies.1 Modernizing processes around the globe, the end of the Cold War, the emergence of a new world order, and the rise of globalization provide reasons for a wide examination of new waves and patterns of migration, both internally and internationally. As a country that has been confronted with various types of migration during its recent history, Turkey attaches great importance to the newly emerging migration questions and their management. This focus has been precipitated by Turkey's desire to enter the European Union and by recent transformations it has faced that have fueled the need for the creation and implementation of a variety of migration-related policies. My main aim in this essay is to present the new and emerging context of migration issues in Turkey, as they have become a key topic on the political agenda in Turkey and in the eyes of the international community.
Turkey has been a main actor on the Eurasian migration scene, first as a country of origin and then as one of destination and transit. Some figures may illustrate this: There were, by the early 2000s, more than 3 million Turkish citizens in Europe, more than 110,000 in Arab countries, and some [End Page 88] 40,000 Turkish workers in the Commonwealth of Independent States.2 In addition to these expatriates, about 400,000 Turkish citizens were present in other countries, with approximately three-fourths residing in the traditional immigration countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States. With the total number of expatriate Turks amounting to more than 3.5 million, 5 percent of the nation's total population is abroad. On the other hand, during the past two decades, Turkey has increasingly been confronted by large-scale inflows of foreign nationals. The nature of this new phenomenon is of a varied character. There are four main types of immigration: transit migration flows, illegal labor migration, movements of asylum seekers and refugees, and the registered migration of foreigners. In the early 2000s, for instance, more than 100,000 illegal migrants bound for Europe were apprehended each year in Turkey.3 The number of foreign citizens who have residence permits is more than 150,000. Annually, the total number of those seeking asylum in Turkey is around 5,000. While the flows of external emigration and immigration are taking place, Turkey also experiences mass internal migration, with thousands of people coming from rural to urban areas each year. This type of movement has continued since the 1950s, although its volume and nature has evolved over time. Since the early 1960s, the internal and international migratory movements in Turkey have often been associated with each other.
The irregular migration flows beginning in the early 1980s, without a doubt, were the biggest change that Turkey has experienced in its international migratory regime in the post-1945 era. One part of these flows consists of movement of transit migrants through Turkey, and the other concerns the irregular employment of foreign workers in the country. There are four factors that shape the irregular migratory movements to Turkey.4 First, the ongoing political turmoil and clashes in neighboring areas have pushed people away from their homelands and toward other lands, where there is hope [End Page 89] for a better life, security, and protection from persecution. Second, Turkey's geographical location between East and West, South and North has made the country a transit zone for many migrants intending to reach western and northern countries. Third, the policies of "Fortress Europe," applying highly restrictive admission procedures and increasing immigration control around the continent, have diverted the Europe-targeted immigration flows to the peripheral zones around Europe, like Turkey. Fourth, Turkey's relative economic prosperity in the region acts as a magnet attracting diverse countries' migrants who want to improve their lives.
Historically, there have been four distinct periods of irregular migration to Turkey: 1979 to 1987, 1988 to 1993, 1994 to 2000/2001, and 2001 onward...