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Turkey’s Transition to an Immigration Country: A Paradigm Shift

This article argues that Turkey is going through a paradigm transition regarding its migration characteristics and has changed from an emigration to an immigration country. It briefly reviews the history of immigration of mostly ethnic Turks or other Muslims to Turkey, but then concentrates on contemporary non-Turkic and non-Muslim immigrants. In the first part, it distinguishes between flows of travelers and migrants and stock of immigrants. Notably, it illustrates national diversity, assesses the quantitative level of immigration to Turkey, including estimates on irregular immigration. In the second part, it analyzes the macro-level economic, political and social factors and discrepancies between Turkey, its neighbors and other countries in the wider region. It concludes that immigration to Turkey is still comparably low but that due to macro-level factors, it could grow. In order to develop adequate policy responses, more research must be done.

Turkey s Transition to an Immigration Country A Paradigm Shift
 

Anybody visiting or living in Istanbul, Antalya and certain other places in Turkey will recognize the visible presence of foreigners – e.g., Saudi shoppers, Western business people, African street vendors and Syrian refugees – some of whom do not just visit but also live and work in Turkey. In literature and the media, there are references to German, Dutch, British or Swedish retirees, Russian and Ukrainian businessmen and women, Georgian construction workers, Armenian nannies, Moldovan domestic workers and caretakers, Uzbeks and Kirgiz workers, Nigerian street vendors, African football players, Syrian gardeners, Afghans, Egyptian and Somali shop owners or Azerbaijani and other students. A World Bank report even suggests that at some point after 2007, Turkey – after decades of being a sending country for labor migrants and refugees –became a net immigration country, hosting a comparably small but increasing number of immigrants plus a significant number of refugees.

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