Turkey is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and bounded on the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria, on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, on the north by the Black Sea, on the east by Azerbaijan and Iran, on the southeast by Iraq and Syria, on the southwest ad west by the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, and on the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria. According to the numbers of the Turkish Statistical Institute, the country’s population was 83,154,997 in 2019.

With approximately 60 years since the start of massive emigration, the migrant profile has been diverse in the course of time, reflecting the broader  economic and political developments. Several stages of Turkish out-migration can be distinguished:

  1. 1960s-1970s: There was an emergent labour need after the Second World War in Europe. In this context, Turkey started to export labour following official agreements with Western European countries, especially Germany, which became the main destination for Turkish emigrants. Migrant profile consisted ofeconomic migrants.
  2. 1980s-1990s: Migration to Europe continued by family reunification. On the other hand, the 1980 military coup led to a refugee migration from Turkey to Europe that included mostly left-wint people. Furthermore, several violent events against the Alevis and armed conflict in the eastern and southeastern regions resulted in another refugee migration flow including Kurds and Alevis. Thus, both economic migrants and refugees marked the Turkish migrant profile during these years.
  3. The 2000s and onward:  migration via family reunification is still going on. Additionally, new migration types have emerged  as an effect of political, economic and technological developments. Migration for educational purposes, for employment in ‘white collar’ jobs and for business has become increasingly common in a more globalized world. It should be noted that the direction of migration in this period diversified by including the US, the Middle East and Asia as destinations.

Based on the statistics of the Ministry of Affairs, around 6.5 million Turks  are living abroad today and 5.5 million of them are residing in Western Europe. While many Turkish emigrants have become permanent residents abroad, there has also been return migration to Turkey, especially since the 1990s. According to the latest census conducted in 2011, 4% of total population in Turkey has resided abroad more than 12 months.

The MIGRADEMO project will investigate the political impact of Turkish emigration on three levels:

The impact of financial and social remittances on the political attitudes and behaviour of those that receive them back home: Turkish diaspora has directly influenced politics at home in several ways. The Turkish expatriates are allowed to vote in a consulate or an embassy since 2014. The election campaigns have far exceeded the national boundaries of Turkey and political authorities have included diaspora in their political agenda. However, the close political relations between political actors and diaspora have not led to an increase in financial remittances. According to the World Bank data, the remittances constitute merely 0.1% of GDP in 2019. Although economic exchange has not been widely practiced between migrant-sending households and emigrants, social remittances and engagement of Turkish expatriates in the Turkish politics are remarkable and have been widely addressed in the relevant literature.

The impact of migration on the proliferation, orientation and activities of the civil society: Civil society is a growing field in Turkey. There are 120,823 active non-governmental organizations. Their area of activity ranges from environment to human rights, from Turks abroad to art, from women rights to hometown associations. Given the significant level of return migrants in recent decades, it is likely that some of them have been involved in the development of civil society organisations.

The impact of migration on the outlook and engagement of political elites: Turkish MPs have significantly high rate of migration experience. 18.2% of the parliamentarians from almost all parties in the assembly have some type of migration experience, the vast majority of them in OECD countries. Migration experience emerges as an important component of the political engagements of the Turkish MPs.

By Deniz Pelek
Last updated: 15/09/20