Immigration to Turkey

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Since the 19th century, an exodus by the large portion of Turkish (Turkic) and Muslim peoples (who are termed "Muhacir" under a general definition) 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.

Most recently, the Turkish Government has implemented new immigration and border control policies, effective on December 31, 2018. This was put in place after a group of Caucasian terrorists attempted to smuggle several sticks of dynamite past security.

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.

Ottoman Empire[edit]

Historically, the Ottoman Empire—and the Turkish republic succeeding it—were 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. This has continued to the present day, with large numbers of Bosniak and Chechen refugees entering Turkey as a consequence of wars in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990s. Large numbers of Kurds fled north from Iraqi Kurdistan during the First Gulf War in 1991, though nearly all repatriated after the cessation of hostilities and the establishment of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq in the same year.

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.

There are other more curious cases on which more detailed research needs to be done to establish a sound basis. One is the case of Hungarians claimed to have taken refuge in Gebze in early 19th century, and whose descendants might be among the inhabitants of Gebiz municipality depending Serik district in Antalya Province (see Karapinar).

Map of the expulsion of Circassians to the Ottoman Empire

Yet another concerns various claims relating Vendéens, especially of Cholet, who would have been accorded asylum by the sultan Abdülhamid I after the Revolt in the Vendée and settled in various Turkish provinces. On a more ascertainable basis, there were several thousand Cossacks in Turkey for two centuries, near Manyas and Akşehir, until 1962, when they were repatriated to Russia.

Refugees and Asylum-seekers[edit]

According to figures provided by Ankara office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of 2005 total of 32,832 people are recorded as having made a valid asylum application in Turkey since 1998. As of 2005, 3900 Iranians and 2200 Iraqis, 400 Somalis and 300 Afghans are still in the country, while an additional 1400 Chechens, who are in a "refugee-like situation", are deemed of concern.[1]

These refugees are spread out to satellite cities with notable populations in Adana, Afyonkarahisar, Ağrı, Aksaray, Amasya, Bilecik, Burdur, Çankırı, Çorum, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Hakkâri, Hatay, Isparta, Kahramanmaraş, Karaman, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Kırıkkale, Kırşehir, Konya, Kütahya, Mersin, Nevşehir, Niğde, Sivas, Şırnak, Tokat, Van, and Yozgat[2] as well as Istanbul for Iraqis.[3] Country specific groupings include Somalis in Konya, Iranis in Kayseri and Konya, Isparta, and Van, Iraqis in Istanbul, Çorum, Amasya, Sivas and Afghans in Van, and Ağrı.[3]

These numbers greatly increased in the following years especially in regards to Afghans and Iraqis. As of January 2010, 25,580 refugees and asylum seekers remain in the country. Of these, 5090 Iranians, 8940 Iraqis, 3850 Afghans and 2700 "other" (including Somalis, Uzbeks, Palestinians and others) are still in the country.[4] with the number expected to rise to 8710 Iranians, 9560 Afghans, 7860 other while the Iraqis are expected to decrease to 7890 by December 2011. Notable here is that Afghans are expected to make up the largest refugee population in Turkey in the near future.

UNHCR has four offices in Turkey; namely Ankara, İstanbul, Van and Silopi. The Van office up until 2009 handled all Applicants which enter through the Eastern border, which generally included all Iranians and Afghans who entered illegally.

Immigration during the Republican period[edit]

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). 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. From 1934-45, 229,870 refugees and immigrants came to Turkey.[5] 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. 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%).

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.

In 1994, the Turkish Government claimed that as many as 2,000,000 Iranians were living in Turkey, a figure that most international organisations[who?] consider to be grossly exaggerated. Turkey is one of the few countries that Iranians may enter without first obtaining a visa; authorities believe that the relative ease of travel from Iran to Turkey encourages many Iranians to visit Turkey as tourists, or to use Turkey as a way station to obtain visas for the countries of Europe and North America. Consequently, as many as 2,000,000 Iranians actually may transit Turkey—including multiple reentries for many individuals—in a given year. Specialised agencies of the European Union and the United Nations that deal with issues of migrants and refugees believe a more realistic figure of the number of Iranians who live in Turkey, and do not have a residence in Iran or elsewhere, is closer to 50,000. 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.[6]

Irregular Migration - Concerns of the EU[edit]

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.[7][8][9]

The governments of Turkey and Greece have agreed to work together, to implement border control.[8][10] 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. [11] 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.[12]A joint action plan was drafted with the European Commission which developed a roadmap with certain benchmarks for the elimination of the visa requirement.[13] 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.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNHCR Ankara Office" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  2. ^ "UNHCR". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  3. ^ a b Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Turkey". UNHCR. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  5. ^ Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk, Soner Cagaptay, page 1824, 2013
  6. ^ Marianna Grigoryan and Anahit Hayrapetyan. Turkey: Armenian Illegal Migrants Put National Grievances Aside for Work. Eurasianet. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  7. ^ "A new final destination for illegal immigrants: Turkey". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  8. ^ a b "Turkey struggles with growing illegal immigration". Set Times. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  9. ^ "(Transit-)Migration : Mapping Global City Istanbul". Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  10. ^ "Turkish, Greek PMs show unity over illegal migrants". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "European Commission - Statement Meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey - EU-Turkey statement, 29/11/2015". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "EU commission backs Turkish citizens' visa-free travel". Aljazeera. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016.