Immigration Policy of Turkey Essay Example

The modern international population shift represents a many-sided phenomenon influencing all parts of social development, whether it is economy, policy, demographic processes, national relations, ideology or religion. Except the economic motives, the process of the international migration is also influenced by the political, ethnic, cultural, family and other factors. The immigrants play an important role in the economy of those countries that they move to (countries-recipients), and the ones they leave (donor countries). Due to the crisis and slow economic recovery, rise in the skepticism and hot debate in the society about the boarders and scales of the immigrants’ inflow to Europe, Turkey has entered a new stage of the immigration and refugees policy. The transition is carried out at the moment, when there is a critical situation on the southern borders of Europe, demanding the most active efforts and undiverted attention. “The Arab Spring”, military operations in Libya and the Syrian conflict turned millions of people into refugees (Elitok & Straubhaar, 2012, p. 20; Elitok, 2013, p. 163).

The regulation of the migratory processes in the 21st century gradually became a priority for the Turkish government as an economic and political agenda of modern Turkey. The increasing significance in Turkey is given to the external measurement of the immigration policy, because the Turkish government believes that the efficiency of the regulation of the immigration streams in many respects depends on the Turkish relations with the rest of the world countries (Kilberg, 2014). The state declared the establishment of a comprehensive immigration policy based on the general basic principles of admission of the other countries’ citizens and protection of the Turkish borders.

The Country for Immigration

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After the crash of the Ottoman Empire, the compelled resettlements and compulsory migration were the main forms of the migration of the Turkish population. The modern Turkish state continues accepting and settling a great number of Turkish and Muslim communities, which have stayed in various parts of the Balkan region on the territory of Turkey. When the borders of the Ottoman Empire started being narrowed on the Balkans, a great number of people who identified themselves with the Ottoman Empire migrated to Turkey. The migration law of 1934 regulated the process of migration and settlement. According to this law, those individuals who proved the Turkish origin and culture were authorized to migrate and settle down in Turkey. Despite the fact that actually there is no accurate criterion that would define the Turkish ethnic and cultural origin, the Muslim communities speaking the Turkish language fall under the action of this law (Içduygu, Göker, Tokuzlu, & Elitok, 2013).

Since the 1960s, the biggest number of immigrants came from Bulgaria. The state policy of Bulgaria in relation to the ethnic definition of Turks was an important factor which influenced the immigration of the Bulgarian Turks. The mass migration of the Bulgarian Turks during 1989 was unexpected for the Turkish authorities. Eventually, the negotiations with the Bulgarian government and the fall of the regime slowed down this migratory movement. The new political situation in Bulgaria influenced the decision of many Turks and made them return to their home countries. According to the official statistics, about 300 thousand Bulgarian Turks lodged in Turkey while more than 150 thousand returned to Bulgaria during this period. However, after that there was a new stream of the migratory movement: the increasing number of the Bulgarian Turks came to Turkey using tourist visas because of the economic difficulties endured by Bulgaria once again (Elitok, 2013, p. 168).

The recent ethnopolitical conflicts and disorders in the region changed the nature and scale of political immigration. The Turkish legislation as well as the organizations and funds were not able to capture the requirements of mass and unexpected flows of migrants from Iran, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Kosovo that happened within several decades. Some of the refugees received the status of temporary immigrants and were placed into the camps for refugees. The others including Bulgarians, Bosnians and Albanians lodged together with the relatives that were the Turkish citizens by ethnic origin. In order to ensure the needs of the refugees in camps, the government took necessary measures for the use of the means and credits of the international organizations. Despite the fact that it succeeded to receive some additional funds, the participation of the international organizations and their financial aid was insufficient (Kilberg, 2014; Içduygu et al., 2013).

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Turkey and Circular Migration

The new political climate in the region led to the emergence of not only new flows of refugees, but also other kinds of the territorial movement of the population. The opening of borders of the neighboring states marked a new era of the Turkish international migration. After the artificial restrictions of the international mobility of the population had disappeared or had been significantly narrowed, there were the new streams of the population migration. Along with the preservation of some traditional groups of immigrants “de facto”, the emergence of new migratory streams is undoubted. It is proved by the fact that tourists, students, businessmen and workers from different countries signified the emergence of new economic, political and cultural relationships in the region. On the other hand, the number of foreign students, the temporary residents with a work permit, businessmen and other groups of foreigners who legally stay in the country increased during the previous decade (Elitok, 2013, p. 170).

Transit Migrants in Turkey

There are also other forms of entry into Turkey which can be defined as “transit migration”. Transit migrants are people going to another country with the purpose of the subsequent moving to other states. In recent years, Turkey became the country of transit migration due to the geopolitical situation between the East and West as well as the North and South, and also as a result of the general activation of the migratory movement in the region. The refugees, asylum-seekers and illegal workers form the ill-matched group of migrants who perceive staying in Turkey as a temporary destination. They look for the best living conditions in the West and treat Turkey as a transit point. The political instability in the region and restrictive immigration policy of the western states strengthens this type of migration to Turkey (Elitok & Straubhaar, 2012, p. 22).

The transit migrants are represented by the young educated male citizens who experience social, political, economic and cultural dissatisfaction. The transit migrants live separately as illegal status makes them vulnerable to the negative events. Besides, when entry to Turkey became simpler, while moving to the West-European countries became more difficult, many transit migrants found themselves trapped in Turkey. Therefore, Turkey, as well as other countries of the buffer zone, takes some actions concerning transit migrants. Having created the restrictions concerning the attraction of foreign labor and strict requirements for obtaining visas, the western countries created an artificial curtain around them for the protection of the collective borders which can be overcome only in an illegal way. Thus, the provision of a buffer zone creates serious difficulties for all countries of the region. For this reason, in Turkey, there are all types of informal and illegal activity, including mediation for an illegal transportation of immigrants that usually leads to the exploitation of refugees and other transit migrants (Grange & Flynn, 2014; Içduygu et al., 2013).

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Contemporary Immigration Policy in Turkey

Turkey is the country that is favorable for immigrants. The latest “Law on Foreigners and International Protection” adopted in April 2013 regulates the permission for residence and work of foreigners living on the territory of the Turkish Republic. Moreover, the law determines an order of delivery and cancellation of the work permit, short-term residence permit, residence permit based on marriage, student’s visa, long-term residence permit, residence permit according to the humanitarian reasons and residence permit for human trafficking victims (Kilberg, 2014).
According to the above-mentioned law, the foreigners planning to stay in Turkey up to 90 days should apply for a visa by contacting the consulate in advance. Thus, the term of stay in the country according to the visa or within a visa-free regime cannot exceed 90 days during the 180-day period. The foreign citizens planning to stay on the territory of Turkey for more than 90 days or longer than the period of the visa’s validity have to receive residence permit. The foreigners continuously living on the territory of Turkey based on residence permit for not less than 8 years have a right to apply for citizenship. The residence in Turkey accompanied with the use of illegal means of living, work without registration of the work permit, violation of the order of entrance and departure from Turkey are among the reasons for the deportation from the country (Republic of Turkey Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management, 2014).

The people who have experienced domestic violence have a right to live in Turkey. Such foreigners possess the status of people under the international protection. The social payments are given to such individuals according to the immigration policy of the country. The foreigners compelled to leave the country and those who do not have an opportunity to come back or those who have crossed the border of Turkey in search of asylum belong to the category of refugees. The status of temporary protection was issued to almost 2 million of the Syrian refugees, who acquired a right to receive a work permit after the 6-month stay in Turkey. Thus, the discussed law demonstrates the desire of Turkey to create the migration policy, corresponding to the EU norms and standards (Grange & Flynn, 2014).
For the regulation of the flows of unauthorized migrants and refugees in Turkey, the government of the country applied different types of measures within the frameworks of its immigration policy. Firstly, the country applies the policy of “prevention of entrance” for those foreigners who try to enter the country without documents. The restriction and penalties have been imposed on the transport companies for the import of passengers without appropriate documents. Secondly, the country has developed a method of transition of migrants to the other countries. The shift of the responsibility for the consideration of petitions for asylum-seekers and provision of protection to such people is an essential part of this method. Thirdly, there are the so-called “restricting” measures for those who apply for the international protection as refugees, including the refusal in the provision of social aid and discrimination in employment (Elitok & Straubhaar, 2012, p.115).

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Immigration Policy towards the Immigrants from Syria

The interaction of Turkey and Syria has a complex nature. There are a lot of factors of the collision of interests of the two states, from the Kurdish issue and mutual territorial claims to the ideological and political contradictions. Turkey seeks to become the world power state, and this purpose defines the nature of the country’s actions, in particular, concerning the events of “the Arab Spring” and the conflict in Syria. Ankara takes measures based on the need to strengthen the influence abroad. The foreign policy of Turkey is based on the principles of the avoidance of problems with neighbors, which means the combination of two tactics – a dialogue and a rigid pressure. In this context, Turkey was and still is interested in the coming of the moderate Islamic modes of being loyal or friendly to power (Içduygu et al., 2013).

The activation of the policy of Ankara towards Syria is connected with the need to strengthen the unity round moderate Islamic leaders who remember “The National Covenant” and struggle for the development of the Turkish democracy. This agreement was accepted in 1919 by the Congresses in Sivas and Erzurum, and then ratified by the last Ottoman Parliament in 1920. This document outlined the border of the future Turkish state and inclusion of the separate areas of modern Iraq, Syria, Cyprus, Bulgaria and other Balkan countries as well as Georgia and Armenia into the structure of Turkey. Accepted in time difficult for Turkey, “The National Covenant” had no validity period and the justification of intervention into the affairs of neighboring states, in particular, Iraq and Syria, so it is perceived by the Turkish nationalists as a guide for actions (Elitok, 2013).
The national calamities during the Arab Spring in March 2011 affected Syria. The policy of their rigid suppression led to a civil war. During 2011, the number of the people migrating from Syria to Turkey was limited to 10 thousand people. By the end of 2012, it increased up to 140 thousand people. The strengthening of the military operations in Syria led to the fact that millions of Syrians started moving to Turkey. The country accepted everybody disregarding the ethnic or religious distinctions (Elitok & Straubhaar, 2012).

According to Kilberg (2014), the number of the registered Syrian citizens in Turkey makes 1 972 billion, including 259 thousand of the Syrians who live in the camps created in 10 districts of Turkey, namely Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Mardin, Kakhramanmarash, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Adana and Malatya. In Turkey, the Syrian refugees receive temporary identity cards, which allow them using medical services and obtaining education free of charge. The volume of the funds spent by Turkey for the previous four years for reception and placement of the Syrian refugees has reached $5.6 billion. However, the volume of the general international aid given to refugees composes only $400 million (Kilberg, 2014).

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Being open for the Syrian refugees, Turkey peruses its own interests. Firstly, the country will receive $3 billion of aid for the support of migrants on its territory. The assigned funds will be spent for the coordination mechanisms, which will provide an integral and justified approach to realizing the needs of refugees and host communities. Secondly, Turkey insists on the liberalization of the visa regime for the Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone of Europe. Thirdly, the state strives for the negotiations about the entrance into the European Union. However, the fulfillment of these requirements is rather problematic, if to take into consideration the critics on the absence of the independent legislative system in Turkey as well as democratic mass media, violations of human rights, relations with the Kurdish minorities and the expected opposition of Greece and Cyprus (Elitok & Straubhaar, 2012, p. 229).

Summing up the results of the discussion on the immigration policy in Turkey, it is possible to draw a conclusion that the contemporary immigration policy of Turkey is in the process of turning from the category of the state and international problem to a new one. It will become the lever of the state regulation of many processes of the economy, demography, cultural exchange, etc. The Turkish immigration policy is aimed at the creation of the new immigration mechanisms.

The operated immigration and effective integration compose the major public regulating mechanisms that help deal with the calls arising from the internal demographic development and globalization. Therefore, the Turkish immigration policy should regulate the future inflow of the population and reconsider the current practice of the conferment of nationality. The economic and social integration of the foreign migrants and refugees will not happen automatically with the conferment of nationality. Thus, Turkey should take necessary measures to foresee the possible consequences of the immigration policy. It should be aimed at accepting the refugees with the minimal losses for the country. Only in this case, most of the Turkish citizens will be able to perceive migration and diversity resulting from it not as a threat, but as a result of social openness and possibility of enrichment.