Immigration to Turkey

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Immigration to Turkey is the process by which people migrate to Turkey to reside in the country. Many, but not all, become Turkish citizens. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and following Turkish War of Independence, an exodus by the large portion of Turkish (Turkic) and Muslim peoples from the Balkans (Balkan Turks, Albanians, Bosniaks, Pomaks), Caucasus (Abkhazians, Ajarians, 'Circassians', Chechens), Crimea (Crimean Tatar diaspora), and Crete (Cretan Turks)) took refuge in present-day Turkey and moulded the country's fundamental features. Trends of immigration towards Turkey continue to this day, although the motives are more varied and are usually in line with the patterns of global immigration movements — Turkey, for example, receives many economic migrants from nearby countries such as Armenia, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan, but also from Central Asia. Turkey's migrant crisis is a period during 2010s characterized by high numbers of people arriving in Turkey.


Historically, the Ottoman Empire was the primary destination for Muslim refugees from areas conquered—or re-conquered—by Christian powers, notably Russia in the Caucasus and Black Sea areas, Austria-Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro (later Yugoslavia) and Romania in the Balkans. Nonetheless, the Ottoman Empire was also a popular destination for non-Muslim refugees: the most obvious examples are the Sephardic Jews given refuge mainly in the 16th century with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal (as well as before and afterwards), whose descendants form the core of the community of Jews in Turkey today; and the village of Polonezköy in İstanbul. From the 1930s to 2016 migration added two million Muslims in Turkey. The majority of these immigrants were the Balkan Turks who faced harassment and discrimination in their homelands.[1] New waves of Turks and other Muslims expelled from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia between 1951 and 1953 were followed to Turkey by another exodus from Bulgaria in 1983-89, bringing the total of immigrants to nearly ten million people.[2] More recently, Meskhetian Turks have emigrated to Turkey from the former Soviet Union states (particularly in Ukraine - after the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014), and many Iraqi Turkmen and Syrian Turkmen have taken refuge in Turkey due to the recent Iraq War (2003-2011) and Syrian Civil War (2011–present).

Case:Treaty of Lausanne initial borders[edit]

A decision taken by the Turkish Government at the end of 1925, for instance, noted that the Turks of Cyprus had, according to the Treaty of Lausanne, the right to emigrate to the republic, and therefore, families that so emigrated would be given a house and sufficient land.[3] Economic motives played an important part in the Turkish Cypriot migration wave as conditions for the poor in Cyprus during the 1920s were especially harsh. Enthusiasm to emigrate to Turkey was inflated by the euphoria that greeted the birth of the newly established Republic of Turkey and later of promises of assistance to Turks who emigrated. The precise number of those who emigrated to Turkey is a matter that remains unknown.[4] The press in Turkey reported in mid-1927 that of those who had opted for Turkish nationality, 5,000–6,000 Turkish Cypriots had already settled in Turkey. However, many Turkish Cypriots had already emigrated even before the rights accorded to them under the Treaty of Lausanne had come into force.[5] St. John-Jones tried to accurately estimate the true demographic impact of Turkish Cypriot emigration to Turkey between 1881-1931. He supposed that:

[I]f the Turkish-Cypriot community had, like the Greek-Cypriots, increased by 101 per cent between 1881 and 1931, it would have totalled 91,300 in 1931 – 27,000 more than the number enumerated. Is it possible that so many Turkish-Cypriots emigrated in the fifty-year period? Taken together, the considerations just mentioned suggest that it probably was. From a base of 45,000 in 1881, emigration of anything like 27,000 persons seems huge, but after subtracting the known 5,000 of the 1920s, the balance represents an average annual outflow of some 500 – not enough, probably, to concern the community’s leaders, evoke official comment, or be documented in any way which survives today.[6]

Case:Population transfer between Greece and Turkey, 1923[edit]

Population exchange between Greece and Turkey brought 400,000. In 1923, more than half a million ethnic Muslims of various nationalities arrived from Greece as part of the population transfer between Greece and Turkey (the population exchange was not based on ethnicity, but by religious affiliation; as Turkey was seen as a Muslim country while Greece was viewed as a Christian country).

An article published in The Times on December 5, 1923, stated that:

"…This transfer of populations is made especially difficult by the fact that few if any of the Turks in Greece desire to leave and most of them will resort to every possible expedient to avoid being sent away. A thousand Turks who voluntarily emigrated from Crete to Smyrna have sent several deputations to the Greek government asking to be allowed to return. Groups of Turks from all parts of Greece have submitted petitions for exemption. A few weeks ago, a group of Turks from Crete came to Athens with a request that they be baptized into the Greek church and thus be entitled to consideration as Greeks. The government however declined to permit this evasion."[7]

The only exclusions from the forced transfer were the Greeks living in Constantinople (Istanbul) and the Turks of Western Thrace.[8] The remaining Turks living in Greece have since continuously emigrated to Turkey, a process which has been facilitated by Article 19 of the Greek Nationality Law which the Greek state has used to deny re-entry of Turks who leave the country, even for temporary periods, and deprived them of their citizenship.[9] Since 1923, between 300,000 and 400,000 Turks of Western Thrace left the region, most of the went to Turkey.[10]

Case:Expulsions from Balkans & Russia, 1925-1961[edit]

After 1925, Turkey continued to accept Turkic-speaking Muslims as immigrants and did not discourage the emigration of members of non-Turkic minorities. More than 90% of all immigrants arrived from the Balkan countries. Turkey continued to receive large numbers of refugees from former Ottoman territories, until the end of Second World War.

Turkey received 350,000 Turks between 1923 and 1930.[11] From 1934-45, 229,870 refugees and immigrants came to Turkey.[12] An agreement made, on September 4, 1936, between Romania and Turkey allowed 70,000 Romanian Turks to leave the Dobruja region for Turkey.[13] Between 1935-40, for example, approximately 124,000 Bulgarians and Romanians of Turkish origin emigrated to Turkey, and between 1954-56 about 35,000 Muslim Slavs emigrated from Yugoslavia. More than 800,000 people came to Turkey between 1923 and 1945. [14] German and Austrian refugees escaping from Nazism took refugee in Turkey in 1930s. Around 800 refugees including university professors, scientists, artists and philosophers, sought asylum in Turkey between 1933 and 1945. An additional 160,000 people immigrated to Turkey after the establishment of Communist Yugoslavia from 1946 to 1961. Since 1961, immigrants from that Yugoslavia amounted to 50,000 people.[15]

By the 1960s, inhabitants living in the Turkish exclave of Ada Kaleh were forced to leave the island when it was destroyed in order to build the Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station, which caused the extinction of the local community through the migration of all individuals to different parts of Romania and Turkey.[16]

By 1980, Turkey had admitted approximately 1,300,000 immigrants; 36% came from Bulgaria, 25% from Greece[citation needed], 22.1% from Yugoslavia, and 8.9% from Romania. These Balkan immigrants, as well as smaller numbers of Turkic immigrants from Cyprus and the Soviet Union, were granted full citizenship upon their arrival in Turkey. The immigrants were settled primarily in the Marmara and Aegean regions (78%) and in Central Anatolia (11.7%).[15]

Case:Expulsions from Cyprus & Cyprus Emergency[edit]

The Cyprus Emergency was a conflict fought in British Cyprus between 1955 and 1959. According to Ali Suat Bilge, taking into consideration the mass migrations of 1878, the First World War, the 1920s early Turkish Republican era, and the Second World War, overall, a total of approximately 100,000 Turkish Cypriots had left the island for Turkey between 1878-1945.[17] By August 31, 1955, a statement by Turkey's Minister of State and Acting Foreign Minister, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, at the London Conference on Cyprus, stated that:

Consequently, today [1955] as well, when we take into account the state of the population in Cyprus, it is not sufficient to say, for instance, that 100,000 Turks live there. One should rather say that 100,000 out of 24,000,000 Turks live there and that 300,000 Turkish Cypriots live in various parts of Turkey.[18]

By 2001 the TRNC Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated that 500,000 Turkish Cypriots were living in Turkey.[19]

Case:Big Excursion, 1988-1994[edit]

The "Big Excursion" is the most recent immigration influx was that of Bulgarian Turks and Bosniaks. In 1989, an estimated 320,000 Bulgarian Turks fled to Turkey to escape a campaign of forced assimilation. Following the collapse of Communism in Bulgaria, the number of Bulgarian Turks seeking refuge in Turkey declined to fewer than 1,000 per month. In fact, the number of Bulgarian Turks who voluntarily repatriated—125,000; actually exceeded new arrivals from the country. By March 1994, a total of 245,000 Bulgarian Turks had been granted Turkish citizenship. However, Turkey no longer regards Bulgarian Turks as refugees. Beginning in 1994, new entrants to Turkey have been detained and deported. As of December 31, 1994, an estimated 20,000 Bosniaks were living in Turkey, mostly in the Istanbul area. About 2,600 were living in camps; the rest were dispersed in private residences.

Case:Turkey's Migration Crisis[edit]

Turkey's migrant crisis or Turkey's refugee crisis is a period during 2010s characterized by high numbers of people arriving in Turkey. Reported by UNHCR in 2018, Turkey is hosting 63.4% of all the refugees (from Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan) in the world. As of 2019, Refugees of the Syrian Civil War in Turkey (3.6 million) are highest "registered" refugees. Turkey has traditionally been a major transit port for illegal immigrants to enter the European Union, but as Turkey has grown in wealth, it now finds itself a major focal point in illegal immigration.[20][21][22]



Turkey is part of the executive committee of UNHCR and a member state of the IOM.

Conventions that are applicable in Turkey:

Conventions that are not applicable in Turkey:


see: Law on Foreigners and International Protection and the Temporary Protection

Regulations on on refugees, asylum seekers, transit migrants available from the website: [23]

Bi and multi lateral dialog[edit]

Turkey was chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Turkey hosted the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. Turkey participates in bilateral migration negotiations, discussions and consultations, in particular with EU member states. Examples are:

  • Budapest Process,
  • Prague Process,
  • Almaty Process
  • Bali Process.

Turkey and the EU have launched a dialogue on visas, mobility and migration. After the 2015 G20 Antalya summit held in November 2015 there was a new push forward in Turkey's European Union accession negotiations, including a goal of lifting the visa requirement for Turkish citizens travelling in the Schengen Area of the European Union. [24] After the 2015 G20 Antalya summit, the EU welcomed the Turkey's commitment to accelerate the fulfilment of the Visa Roadmap benchmarks set forth by participating EU member states.[25]A joint action plan was drafted with the European Commission which developed a roadmap with certain benchmarks for the elimination of the visa requirement.[26] In May 2016, the European Commission said that Turkey had met most of the 72 criteria needed for a visa waiver, and it invited EU legislative institutions of the bloc to endorse the move for visa-free travel by Turkish citizens within the Schengen Area by June 30 2016. The European Parliament, would have to approve the visa waiver for it to enter into practice and Turkey must fulfil the final five criteria.[27] Turkey has a number of formal bilateral agreements with sending/receiving countries. It currently has bilateral social security agreements with 28 countries bilateral labour agreements with 12 countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Sweden.

Visa System[edit]

Turkey developed E-ikamet (E-residence. E is electronic) system. Turkey developed a system to monitor visa process. The electronic visa application system is integrated with the Police Intranet System, PolNet. The Directorate-General of Migration Management of Turkey (DGMM)institutional database GöçNet (Migration Network) is connected to the PolNet (Police Network) database.

Drugs-Crime-Sexual exploitation of immigrants[edit]

An inter-agency national commission responsible for countering human trafficking. Turkey collects and publishes information annually on counter-trafficking activities. Drugs-Crime-Sexual exploitation category had 183 victims in 2016, Syrians (36), followed by Kyrgyz (33), Georgians (23), and Uzbeks (16); the other 73 victims were Indonesia, Moldova, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan aggregated.[28]

Immigration rate[edit]

Immigration to Turkey from the Balkans:[29]

Country 1923–1949 1950–1959 1960–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2007 TOTAL
Bulgaria 220,085 154,473 2,582 113,562 225,892 74,564 138 791,296
Greece 394,753 14,787 2,081 0 4 0 0 408,625
Yugoslavia 117,212 138,585 42,512 2,940 2,550 2,159 1,548 307,506
Romania 121,339 5 259 147 686 126 2 122,564
Others 10,109 4,222 1,047 139 4,457 773 49 20,796
TOTAL 825,022 312,072 48,481 16,788 233,589 77,622 1,731 1,650,787

Immigration categories[edit]

Foreign-born population[edit]

Foreign-born population of Turkey:[29]

Place of birth 1955 1970 1990 2000 2015[30]
 Bulgaria 295,917 255,147 462,767 480,817 378,658
 Greece 257,035 201,123 101,752 59,217 26,928
 Yugoslavia 133,762 254,790 183,499
 Romania 68,112 60,398 20,736 9,512
 Macedonia 31,515 43,400
 Germany 176,820 273,535 263,318
 France 10,280 15,976 28,507
 Netherlands 9,916 32,345
 United Kingdom 18,914 32,140
 United States 5,997 17,179 12,868 24,026
 Russia 29,151 17,825 11,430 19,856 34,486
 Syria 7,156 76,413
 Iraq 27,303 97,528
 Albania 6,639 2,488
 Iran 5,950 6,283 10,463 36,226
 Saudi Arabia 4,109 7,886 14,573
 Cyprus/ Northern Cyprus 6,378 20,402
 Azerbaijan 16,787 52,836
 Uzbekistan 36,083
 Afghanistan 38,692
 Belgium 26,531
 Georgia 25,019
 Turkmenistan 24,937
 Kazakhstan 21,546
 Ukraine 20,547
 Austria 18,609
 Kyrgyzstan 17,235
 Libya 16,442
 Moldova 13,472
  Switzerland 13,453
 China 12,426
 Serbia and  Montenegro 9,201
TOTAL 846,042 889,170 1,133,152 1,260,530 1,592,437

Foreign-born population of Turkey, 2000 Census (Immigration by countries, 2000)[31]

 Country	Total 	 Male 	Female			
 England	 5708	 2920	 2788
 Austria	 5557	 3250	 2307
 Switzerland	 5370	 2817	 2553
 Islamic Republic of Iran	 5138	 3188	 1950
 Iraq   	 4617	2679	1938
 Kazakhstan	 4153	2309	1844
 Belgium	 2740	1439	1301
 Romania	 2730	1220	1510
 Uzbekistan	 2104	1146	958
 Greece 	 2011	1042	969
 Georgia	 1979	919	1060
 Ukraine	 1800	613	1187
 Afghanistan	 1779	1204	575
 Albania	 1481	789	692
 Turkmenistan	 1477	1121	356
 Australia	 1369	670	699
 Kyrgyzstan	 1334	785	549
 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya	 1239	972	267
 Italy  	 1162	755	407
 Republic of Macedonia	 1154	589	565
 Syrian Arab Republic	 1132	569	563
 Denmark	 1 107	580	527
 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia	 1 090	512	578
 Sweden	984	475	509
 Israel	895	735	160
 Japan	865	511	354
 Republic of Moldova	721	109	612
 Canada	701	367	334
 Norway	678	353	325
 Islamic Republic of Pakistan	552	373	179
 Egypt	445	323	122
 Jordan	390	250	140
 China	378	231	147
 Lebanon	352	210	142
 Spain	291	183	108
 Kuwait	275	215	60
 Bangladesh	227	209	18
 Tajikistan	216	173	43
 Bosnia and Herzegovina…	213	146	67
 India	210	136	74
 Palastine National Administration	207	181	26
 The Others	 4823	 2673	 2150

 Total	 234111	 130762	 103349

Sources of immigration[edit]


Despite a negative public opinion in Armenia, by 2010, there were between 22,000 and 25,000 Armenian citizens living illegally in Istanbul alone, according to Turkish officials.[32]


Iranian wants to immigrate to turkey for education or work This is the reason why many Turkish residents are now Iranian, and the Turkish government is slowly trying to make it difficult for them to stay.


Refugees of the Syrian Civil War in Turkey are the Syrian refugees originated from Syrian Civil War, Turkey is hosting over 3.6 million (2019 number) "registered" refugees and delivered aid reaching $30 billion (total between 2011–2018) on refugee assistance. The large scale return to Syria uncertain (unending conflict), Turkey has focused on how to manage their presence, more registered refugees than any other country, in Turkish society by addressing their legal status, basic needs, employment, education, and impact on local communities.

See also[edit]


  • Karpat, Kemal H. (2001), The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State (PDF), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-513618-7, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-05-08.
  • Karpat, Kemal H. (2004), "The Turks in America: Historical Background: From Ottoman to Turkish Immigration", Studies on Turkish Politics and Society: Selected Articles and Essays, BRILL, ISBN 90-04-13322-4.
  • Çaǧatay, Soner (2006), Islam, Secularism, and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk?, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0415384583.
  • Heper, Metin; Criss, Bilge (2009), Historical Dictionary of Turkey, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0810860650.
  • Clark, Bruce (2007), Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey, Granta, ISBN 978-1862079243.
  • Poulton, Hugh (1997), "Islam, Ethnicity and State in the Contemporary Balkans", in Poulton, Hugh; Taji-Farouki, Suha (eds.), Muslim Identity and the Balkan State, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, ISBN 1850652767.
  • Corni, Gustavo; Stark, Tamás (2008), Peoples on the Move: Population Transfers and Ethnic Cleansing Policies during World War II and its Aftermath, Berg Press, ISBN 978-1845208240.
  • Nevzat, Altay (2005), Nationalism Amongst the Turks of Cyprus: The First wave (PDF), Oulu University Press, ISBN 9514277503


  1. ^ Çaǧaptay 2006, 82
  2. ^ Karpat 2004, 612.
  3. ^ Nevzat 2005, 276.
  4. ^ Nevzat 2005, 280.
  5. ^ Nevzat 2005, 281.
  6. ^ St. John-Jones 1983, 56.
  7. ^ Clark 2007, 158.
  8. ^ Corni & Stark 2008, 8.
  9. ^ Poulton 1997, 19.
  10. ^ Whitman 1990, 2.
  11. ^ Heper & Criss 2009, 91
  12. ^ Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk, Soner Cagaptay, page 1824, 2013
  13. ^ Corni & Stark 2008, 55.
  14. ^ emal Kirişçi, 'Post Second World War Immigration from Balkan Countries to Turkey', New Perspectives on Turkey, Vol. 12, Spring 1995, p. 65.
  15. ^ a b Heper & Criss 2009, 92.
  16. ^ Bercovici 2012, 169.
  17. ^ Bilge, Ali Suat (1961), Le Conflit de Chypre et les Chypriotes Turcs, Ajans Türk, p. 5
  18. ^ "The Tripartite Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus held by the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Greece, and Turkey". H.M. Stationery Office. 9594 (18): 22. 1955.
  19. ^ TRNC Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Briefing Notes on the Cyprus Issue". Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  20. ^ "A new final destination for illegal immigrants: Turkey". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  21. ^ "Turkey struggles with growing illegal immigration". Set Times. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  22. ^ "(Transit-)Migration : Mapping Global City Istanbul". Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  23. ^ Law on Foreigners and International Protection and the Temporary Protection, 2014,
  24. ^ Pence, Anne; Utku, Sinan (16 November 2015). "Hosting G20 Leaders is Opportunity for Turkey on Growth and Stability". The National Law Review. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  25. ^ "European Commission - Statement Meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey - EU-Turkey statement, 29/11/2015". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  26. ^ De Ruyt, Jean (2 December 2015). "The EU – Turkey summit of 29 November 2015 : A "Re-Energised" Relationship". The National Law Review. Covington & Burling LLP. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  27. ^ "EU commission backs Turkish citizens' visa-free travel". Aljazeera. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  28. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "2017 Trafficking in Persons Report - Turkey". Refworld.
  29. ^ a b Mustafa Yakar. The population growth and distribution of the foreignborns in TurkeyISSN 1303-5134
  30. ^ "..::Welcome to Turkish Statistical Institute(TurkStat)'s Web Pages::." Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  31. ^ Migration Statistics. Available from
  32. ^ Marianna Grigoryan and Anahit Hayrapetyan. Turkey: Armenian Illegal Migrants Put National Grievances Aside for Work. Eurasianet. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.