“I don’t know what will happen in Iran after four years. So, I will make a plan for myself to go to America or somewhere else, like all Iranians want to. But I know I will not be able to do that, because you need to have money (….) So I said to myself: ‘Ok I will not be able to go to other countries, so I have two options: to stay in Turkey, or to go back to Iran.” (Farzad, 25, Iranian student at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey)
The phenomenon of transit migration has become a central element in both scholarly and policy discussions since in the 1990s, when the European Union introduced stricter border controls and imposed serious obstacles for legal migration into its territory.1 As a consequence, more migrants from the East and the South seemed to use overland and maritime routes in order to reach Europe and had to use several “stop-overs” on the way, such as Turkey, Ukraine, Libya, Egypt and Morocco. At the same time, large inflows of migrants and asylum seekers from the South and East have transformed these so-called ‘transit countries’ into immigration countries in their own right.2 However, few studies have investigated the settlement of migrants in locales that they only intended to transit. This article will try to fill part of that gap by presenting the stories of several Iranian migrants for whom the perception of Turkey transformed from a transit location into a place of immigration. What factors were important in their decision to settle down in Turkey, and how can we relate that to Turkey’s changing modes of reception for foreigners from the Middle East?