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Turkey's migrant crisis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Turkey's migrant crisis, (Turkey's refugee crisis)[name 1] 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.[a][4] As of 2019, Refugees of the Syrian Civil War in Turkey (3.6 million) are highest "registered" refugees.

Turkey is part of a pattern established during the European migrant crisis, which large groups of immigrants (displaced people, refugee or asylum seeker) from other continents used Turkey as a "transit country" (gateway to Europe) during "major refugee flows" began in the mid-20th century. Part of migrant crisis of the 21st century, Turkey received refugees from Iran-Iraq War and Iranian Revolution, Gulf War, War in Afghanistan and Syrian Civil War. In managing this crisis, Turkey passed the Law on Foreigners and International Protection and the Temporary Protection, established Syria–Turkey and Iran–Turkey barrier to stop smuggling and security, and involved in ceasefires in Syria which established Safe Zones in Syria in order to halt the fighting.

Major refugee flows

Immigration to Turkey has historical roots in the Ottoman Empire, an estimated 10 million Ottoman Muslim citizens, the refugees or corresponding old term "Muhacir", and their descendants born after the onset of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (the late 18th century until the end of the 20th century) emigrated to Thrace and Anatolia.[5] Turkey became a country of immigration again beginning in 1980s.[6] The new crisis in the Middle East (specifically Syria) created the refugee situation.

The most important factors are (1) armed conflict, (2) ethnic intolerance, (3) religious fundamentalism, and (4) political tensions.[7] The influx of refugees, irregular and transit migrations came to Turkey particularly from the Middle East (Iran-Iraq) starting from 1980s.[8]

Influx from Iran-Iraq War

The largest group of refugees has been Iranians (until the Syrian civil war). The first influx was the Iranians fleeing from the Iranian Revolution, arrived beginning 1980. The Iran–Iraq War began on 22 September of the same year. Revolution and War brought a combined influx from Iran. 1980 to 1991, a total of 1.5 million Iranians became refugees in Turkey.[9] These refugees weren't recognized as asylum seekers under the terms of the Geneva Convention, because they entered and stayed as tourists; making them Iranian diaspora. A small group applied to UNHCR, UNHCR resettled them in other countries. Another large group of refugees after the Islamic Revolution was Iranian Kurds mainly members of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, led by Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou. The Islamic government responded to Kurdish fighters as suspected supporters and sympathizers, more than 271 Iranian Kurdish villages were reportedly destroyed and depopulated.[10] As the armed conflict continued, it led to a steady flow of Kurdish refugees into Turkey. The Bahá'í Faith had about 350,000 believers in Iran. According to the UN Special Representative, since 1979, many members of this community have left Iran illegally, often to go to Turkey and if possible to West from Turkey, Persecution of Bahá'ís#Islamic Revolution and Republic.[11]

During the same period; 51,542 Iraqis (Iraqis in Turkey) became refugees in Turkey.[12] The Iran–Iraq War and Kurdish rebellion of 1983 caused first large influx of refugees from the region.

Amnesty International and UNHCR pressured Turkey (not respecting human rights) for Iranian refugees, and that tactic backfired when Turkey recognized "the West" closed its own doors on the same refugees later in the decade.[13]

Influx from Gulf War

Iraqi Kurds fleeing to Turkey in April 1991, during the Gulf War
Iraqi Kurds fleeing to Turkey in April 1991, during the Gulf War

1.85 million Kurds fled to the borders of Turkey and Iran.[14] About 450,000 Kurds were on the mountainsides where Turkey-Iraq border. UN SC Resolution 688 was passed, which paved the way for the Operation Northern Watch (ONW), the successor to Operation Provide Comfort, was a Combined Task Force (CTF) charged with enforcing its own no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq, following refugee flow to Turkey.

Final tally for Gulf War was at least 1 Million people fled (almost 30% of the population) to Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.[15]

Influx from War in Afghanistan

Refugee numbers greatly increased in the following years of War in Afghanistan 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). As of January 2011, 8710 Iranians, 9560 Afghans, 7860 other. As of January 2012 7890 (Iranians, Afghans,and other).[16]

Influx from Syrian Civil War

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. Read more...


Turkey don't establish "classic" refugee camps, don't name them refugee camps and until 2018 they were managed by Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (FEMA type organization), along its borders for refugees. Turkey established "Temporary Accommodation Centers," such as Kilis Oncupinar Accommodation Facility. Syrians residing outside of TACs have live alongside Turkish communities, that created short-to-medium term opportunity for harmonize and form economic contribution on. Turkey give them permission to settle 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[17] as well as Istanbul. Refugees from Somalia settled in Konya, Iranis in Kayseri and Konya, Isparta, and Van, refugees from Iraq in Istanbul, Çorum, Amasya, Sivas and refugees from Afghanistan in Van, and Ağrı.

Migrant Presence Monitoring

Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) focuses on the mobility trends, migrant profiles and urgent needs of migrants. The data generated allows the organizations and the government to plan their short and long term migration-related program and policies.

Effect on the host country

Compared to international refugee regime (Refugee law), Turkey has a different approach which they named it as "morality oriented approach" instead of security centered (Refugee#Security_threats) approach towards Syrians refugees.[18] Turkey have high expenses on refugee care (housing, employment, education and health), including the medical expenses (no discount from western medicine companies), with a minimal support from other countries.[19]

Refugees impact on economic and social issues[20]:

  • increases in food and house prices and property rents.
  • low-paid refugees increased the unemployment rate (southern Turkey).

Security Impact

The migrant crisis developed at the most complex geostrategic position in the world, the situation contained ongoing active, proxy, or cooling wars as Turkey shared borders with Iraq (2003 US-led invasion, Iraq War (2003–2011), and Iraqi insurgency (2003–2011)), Iran (Iran–Israel proxy conflict), Syria (Syrian civil war), Georgia (Russo-Georgian War) , Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh conflict), Greece and Bulgaria. In line with the escalating fragility in the region, Turkey directly joined the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Turkey–ISIL conflict) in August 2016. The dynamics of the Syrian civil war spilled over into Turkish territory (ISIL rocket attacks on Turkey (2016)). ISIS carried out a series (2013 Reyhanlı bombings, 2015 Suruç bombing, March 2016 Istanbul bombing) of attacks against Turkish civilians by using suicide bombers. The deadliest terrorism in Turkish history, as of 2019, The ISIS attack (2015 Ankara bombings) against a peace rally.

Syria–Turkey and Iran–Turkey barrier

Turkey-Syria Barrier
Turkey-Syria Barrier

The border between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Turkey is about 822 kilometres (511 mi) long.[21] The Syria–Turkey barrier is a border wall and fence under construction along the Syria–Turkey border aimed at preventing illegal crossings and smuggling.[22]

The Iran–Turkey barrier, finished spring 2019, at the Turkey-Iran border aimed to prevent illegal crossings and smuggling across the border. It will cover 144 kilometres (89 mi) of the very high mountainous 499 kilometres (310 mi) border with natural barriers.

Migrant Smuggling

In the Black Sea region, countries are both source and destination for refugees. For the destination to Turkey; originating Moldova, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan,and Uzbekistan are target for human trafficking (migration using ships, ship operators are smugglers). The top 5 countries of destination in the region between 2000 and 2007 were Russia (1,860), Turkey (1,157), Moldova (696), Albania (348) and Serbia (233).[23]

Turkish police crack down siummuling resulted in termination of a network mainly helped Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian nationals cross into European countries. [24]

Refugees and spillover

See: Spillover_of_the_Syrian_Civil_War#Turkey, Refugees as weapons#Syrian Civil War

In Turkey, public opinion towards intervention is correlated with their daily exposure to refugees. In Turkish people, emphasizing the negative forces created by hosting refugees, including their connection with militants, increases support for intervention. Turkish people living at border, Turkey don't use border refugees camps and they are distributed across turkey, don't support intervention.[25]

Response to the refugee crisis

External aid organizations; UN agencies have a Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan co-led by UNHCR and UNDP under Turkey. Private INGOs work in partnership with Turkish NonGovernmental Organisations (NGOs) and associations to support the delivery of services through national systems, help link refugees and asylum seekers with governmental services.

Law on Foreigners and International Protection and the Temporary Protection

The Government of Turkey recognized that the traditional immigration laws need to be organized and updated under these new circumstances. The first domestic law on asylum, before covered under secondary legislation such as administrative circulars.[26]

The rules and regulations in providing protection and assistance to Syrians is established by "The Law on Foreigners and International Protection and the Temporary Protection Regulation." Law provide the legal basis of their "refugee status" and establishing temporary protection to Syrians and international protection to applicants and refugees of other nationalities. The basis of any/all assistance to refugees, including access to health and education services, as well as access to legal employment is defined under this law.[27] The Law states that foreigners and others with international protection will not be sent back to places where they will be tortured, suffer inhumane treatment or punishment that is humiliating, or be threatened due to race, religion, or group membership.[28] Law created an agency under the Turkish Ministry of Justice on international protection, which also implement related regulations. Investigative authority is established to question marriages between Turkish citizens and foreigners for the “reasonable suspicions” of fraud.[29] The uninterrupted residence permits for eight years will be able to receive unlimited residence permits.[29]

As of 16 March 2018, there is a modification to law; following the passage of the law 21 official "Temporary Protection Centres" (TPCs) in provinces along the Syrian border established, [30], the Directorate-General of Migration Management of Turkey (DGMM), under the Ministry of Interior, has assumed responsibility for TPCs from Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency.

Migration Diplomacy

Basis for #2015 EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan; Syrian asylum applications highest among all nationalities between 1 January and 30 June 2015[31]
Basis for #2015 EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan; Syrian asylum applications highest among all nationalities between 1 January and 30 June 2015[31]

International migration is an important domain at foreign policy development.

Accession to the EU

Migration is part of accession of Turkey to the European Union. On Mar 16, 2016, Cyprus is became hurdle to EU-Turkey deal on migrant crisis. The EU illicitly linked advancing membership bid to a settlement of the decades-old Cyprus dispute, further complicating efforts to win Ankara’s help in resolving Europe’s migration crisis.[32]

2015 EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan

EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan and decline in refugees from Greece[33]
EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan and decline in refugees from Greece[33]

In 2012, the governments of Turkey and Greece have agreed to work together, to implement border control.[34] In response to Syrian crisis; Greece built a razor-wire fence in 2012 along its short land border with Turkey.[35]

A period beginning in 2015, The European migrant crisis is characterized by rising numbers of people arriving in the European Union (EU) from across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe. In September 2015, Turkish provincial authorities gave approximately 1,700 migrants three days to leave the border zone.[36] As a result of Greece's diversion of migrants to Bulgaria from Turkey, Bulgaria built its own fence to block migrants crossing from Turkey.[35]

The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan prioritizes border security and develops mechanisms to keep refugees inside Turkey [prevent migration to EU states].[20] The amount allocated [EU: €3 billion] for financial support for 2016–2018 will ease the financial burden [Turkey: $30 billion between 2011–2018] but not better living conditions.[20]

These are the items as stated in the agreement[20]:

  • All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;
  • For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;
  • Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
  • Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;
  • The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilize additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion to the end of 2018;
  • The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.
    — EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan

European states denies refugees from Turkey. On 18 May 2016, lawmakers from the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) have said that Turkey should not use Syrian refugees as a bribe for the process of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens inside the European Union.[37]

The UNHCR (not a party) criticized and declined to be involved in returns.[38] Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children declined to be involved. These organization object the blanket expulsion of refugees contravened international law.[39]

"Safe Country" for EU

In 2019 Greece, resumed deportations in addressing an increase of refugees over the summer months.[40]

"Safe Zone" for Refugees

Syrian peace process and de-escalation are ongoing efforts beginning as early as 2011. Return of refugees of the Syrian Civil War is the returning to the place of origin (Syria) of a Syrian refugee. Turkey promoted the idea of de-escalation regions from 2015, world powers declined to help create a zone (example: Iraq safe zone established by Operation Provide Comfort) to protect civilians.[41] Regarding safety of the refugees, progress needs to be made before any significant returns can be planned for. Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed in 2017 to create the Idlib demilitarization (2018–present). (March 2017 and May 2017 Astana talks: De-escalation zones) As of 2019, Idleb and Eastern Ghouta, de-escalation zones remain insecure. President Erdogan says Syria's Idlib, de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib region, slowly disappearing.[42] Idlib's safe zone is more like conflict zone in a way Aleppo conflict zone (referring to Battle of Aleppo (2012–2016).[42] In 2019, Northern Syria Buffer Zone is a thin strip of the border in northern Syria which will be a “safe zone” and can only be achieved by finding a solution to the conflicting goals of Russia and the United States. A safe zone will stem the wave of migrations, but Turkey will also clear its border of Islamic State and Kurdish militia fighters.[41]

See also

Further reading

Kivilcim, Zeynep (2019). Migration Crises in Turkey. Oxfordh Handbooks.


  1. ^ Sort on descending 2014, mid-2015, mid-2016 UNHCR registered refugees by country/territory of asylum: List of countries by refugee population



  1. ^ use: [1] [2] [3]


  1. ^ Bryza, Matthew (16 July 2018). "Turkey and the migration crisis: a positive example for the Transatlantic community". Auractive. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  2. ^ Kivilcim, Zeynep (2019). Migration Crises in Turkey. Oxfordh Hndbooks. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  3. ^ Staff (30 November 2016). "Turkey's Refugee Crisis: The Politics of Permanence". Crisis Group. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Total Persons of Concern by Country of Asylum". data2. UNHCR. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  5. ^ Sarah A.S. Isla Rosser-Owen, MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies (thesis). The First 'Circassian Exodus' to the Ottoman Empire (1858–1867), and the Ottoman Response, Based on the Accounts of Contemporary British Observers. Page 16: "... with one estimate showing that the indigenous population of the entire north-western Caucasus was reduced by a massive 94 per cent". Text of citation: "The estimates of Russian historian Narochnitskii, in Richmond, ch. 4, p. 5. Stephen Shenfield notes a similar rate of reduction with less than 10 per cent of the Circassians (including the Abkhazians) remaining. (Stephen Shenfield, "The Circassians: A Forgotten Genocide?", in The Massacre in History, p. 154.)"
  6. ^ Boluk, Gulden (2016). "Syrian Refugees in Turkey: between Heaven and Hell?" (PDF). Mediterranean Yearbook (Observatory of Euro Mediterranean policies) ) (2016): 118. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  7. ^ Ahmet îçduygu, 1996, Transit Migrants in Turkey, Boğaziçi Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1-2, p. 127
  8. ^ Ihlamur-Öner, S. G. (2014). “Turkey’s Refugee Regime Stretched to the Limit? The Case of Iraqi And Syrian Refugee Flows”, Perceptions, Autumn 2013, Volume Xviii, Number 3, Pp. 191-228.
  9. ^ Latif, D. (2002). “Refugee Policy of the Turkish Republic”, The Turkish Year Book, Vol. Xxxiii, Pp. 12.
  10. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Update to the UNHCR CDR Background Paper on Refugees and Asylum Seekers from Iran". Refworld. UNHCR.
  11. ^ UN General Assembly, A/52/472, 15 October 1997, expulsion of members of Bahá'í Faith
  12. ^ Kaynak, M. et al. (1992). Iraklı Sığınmacılar ve Türkiye (1988-1991), Ankara: Tanmak. page 25
  13. ^ Sherry, Bennett G. (23 January 2019). "Cul-de-sac to the West: Human Rights and Hypocrisy between Turkey and Europe in the 1980s". Asian Review of World Histories. 7 (1–2): 177. doi:10.1163/22879811-12340052. ISSN 2287-9811.
  14. ^ Galbraith, P.W (2003). "Refugees from the war in iraq: what happened in 1991 and what may happen in 2003" (PDF). Migration Policy Institute (2). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 8, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  15. ^ Human Rights Watch. GENOCIDE IN IRAQ: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds, A Middle East Watch Report. New York City: Human Rights Watch, 1993.
  16. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Turkey". UNHCR. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  17. ^ "UNHCR". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  18. ^ Aras, N. E. G., & Mencutek, Z. S. (2015). The international migration and foreign policy nexus: the case of Syrian refugee crisis and Turkey. Migration Letters, 12(3), 193.
  19. ^ Kirişci, K. (2014). Syrian refugees and Turkey's challenges: Going beyond hospitality: Brookings Washington, DC.
  20. ^ a b c d Boluk, Gulden (2016). "Syrian Refugees in Turkey: between Heaven and Hell?" (PDF). Mediterranean Yearbook (Observatory of Euro Mediterranean policies) ) (2016): 120. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  21. ^ Syria – Turkey Boundary Archived 2008-02-27 at the Wayback Machine, International Boundary Study No. 163, The Geographer, Office of the Geographer, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State (7 March 1978).
  22. ^ The Daily Telegraph: "Turkey to build 500-mile wall on Syria border after Isil Suruc bombing" by Nabih Bulos 23 Jul 2015
  23. ^ Aghazarm, Christine (2008). Migration in the Black Sea Region : an overview (PDF). International Organization for Migration. p. 11. ISBN 978-92-9068-487-9.
  24. ^ Foundation, Thomson Reuters. "Turkey breaks up smuggling ring that brought thousands of migrants to Europe". Reuters. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  25. ^ Getmansky, Anna; Sınmazdemir, Tolga; Zeitzoff, Thomas (1 October 2019). "The allure of distant war drums: Refugees, geography, and foreign policy preferences in Turkey". Political Geography. 74. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102036. ISSN 0962-6298.
  26. ^ Cavidan Soykan, The New Draft Law on Foreigners and International Protection in Turkey, 2 Oxford monitor of forced migration 38–47 (Nov. 2012).
  27. ^ Editorial (24 April 2018). "Assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey” Conference document (PDF). Brussels: Brussels II Conference. p. 2. Retrieved 29 July 2019. Content is copied from this source, which is © European Union, 1995-2018. Reuse is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged. Conference declaration was drafted by the European Union in close co-ordination with the Turkish Government and the United Nations
  28. ^ Johnson, Constance (18 April 2013). "Turkey: New Law on Foreigners and International Protection | Global Legal Monitor". Library of Congress. Retrieved 30 July 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  29. ^ a b EU Welcomes New Turkish Law on Foreigners, TODAY’S ZAMAN (Apr. 5, 2013)
  30. ^ Editorial (24 April 2018). "Assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey” Conference document (PDF). Brussels: Brussels II Conference. p. 1. Retrieved 29 July 2019. Content is copied from this source, which is © European Union, 1995-2018. Reuse is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged. Conference declaration was drafted by the European Union in close co-ordination with the Turkish Government and the United Nations
  31. ^ "Asylum quarterly report – Statistics Explained".
  32. ^ NORMAN, LAURENCE. "Cyprus is latest hurdle to EU-Turkey deal on migrant crisis". MarketWatch. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Arrivals to Greece, Italy and Spain. January–December 2015" (PDF). UNHCR.
  34. ^ "Turkish, Greek PMs show unity over illegal migrants". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  35. ^ a b Sarah Almukhtar; Josh Keller; Derek Watkins (16 October 2015). "Closing the Back Door to Europe". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  36. ^ "The Latest: Hundreds Seek to Cross Turkey-Greece Border". The New York Times. Associated Press. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  37. ^ "Syrian refugees should not be used as bribe for visa-free travel, says EP". hurriyet.
  38. ^ "UNHCR redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect". UNHCR. 22 March 2016.
  39. ^ "Refugee crisis: key aid agencies refuse any role in 'mass expulsion'". The Guardian. 23 March 2016.
  40. ^ staff. "The Latest: Greece resuming migrant deportations to Turkey". THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  41. ^ a b Coskun, Orhan (6 September 2016). "With Syria 'safe zone' plan, Turkey faces diplomatic balancing act". Reuters. Reuters. Reuters.
  42. ^ a b staff (3 September 2019). "Turkish President Erdogan says Syria's Idlib slowly disappearing". Reuters.
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