783.562 km² (CIA World Factbook)
Law on Foreigners and International Protection
Temporary Protection Regulation
National Strategy on Harmonization and the National Action Plan
Strategy Document and National Action Plan on Irregular Migration
Turkey is a country of emigration, immigration and transit. It features a growing and ageing population that reached 84.680.273 in 2021. Around two-thirds of the growth is attributed to natural replenishment and another one-third to immigration. Turkey’s potential net migration rate is negative, yet immigration to the country has been on the rise.
Considerable labour emigration of Turkish nationals as of the 1960s resulted in the establishment of a prominent Turkish diaspora abroad, reaching a total of 3.411.408 in 2020. The number rises to 6.5 million when all Turkish citizens living abroad are considered. Germany hosts the largest Turkish community of 1.3 million, followed by France hosting 700.000 Turkish nationals, the Netherlands with 414.186, the United Kingdom with 400.000, and Austria with 270.000 persons.
The financial and economic crisis that started in 2018 has generated new waves of out-migration. In 2018 and 2019, outflows from Turkey exceeded 330.000 persons per year, up to 40% of whom were Turkish nationals. Among foreigners who left Turkey in these two years, the most populous groups comprised nationals of Iraq, Turkmenistan, Syria and Afghanistan. The continuing economic downturn of 2022 may further stimulate out-migration. In July 2022, inflation in Turkey hit 79.6% and the Turkish Lira further weakened. Moreover, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9% for the entire working-age population and 20.3% for the youth, which contributes to emigration aspirations among the youth. Notably, in 2019, over 40% of the emigration flow consisted of persons who were 20 to 35 years of age. According to research estimates, recent labour migrants from Turkey are mostly skilled workers employed in such sectors as information technology, engineering, and academia.
Between 2016 and 2018, 6.081 academics were dismissed due to political reasons in Turkey, pushing hundreds of them to seek job opportunities abroad. Some affluent Turkish nationals have also opted for emigration. Between 2013 and mid-2022, a total of 587 Turkish nationals acquired residency rights or citizenship in Greece upon purchase of property as part of the so-called Golden Visa program and ranked as the second largest beneficiary group after Chinese investors. Additionally, Turkey sends close to 50.000 students abroad for higher education annually.
The political context has played an important role in emigration from Turkey for international protection purposes. Domestic clashes in the period 1984-2005 produced more than one million internally displaced persons, mostly Kurds, and as many as 227.236 refugees in 2006. More recently, the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2016 military coup attempt triggered a new wave of emigration and an increase in the number of both asylum applications and the number of recognized refugees originating from Turkey, amounting to 105.019 and 46.327 respectively in 2021. The same year, there were 20.315 asylum applications from Turkish nationals in the EU, and 6.345 received some form of protection. The majority of asylum applications were filed in Germany, France and the Netherlands with the figures reaching 7.065, 4.965 and 2.460 respectively.
Irregular migration from Turkey to the EU has also been increasing albeit moderately. The number of Turkish nationals staying illegally in the EU doubled in the past five years, reaching 19.390 in 2021. The number of those ordered to leave has also grown from 6.650 in 2016 to 10.305 in 2021, yet the return rate has slightly declined from 27% to 21% in the same period. Moreover, the number of Turkish nationals refused entry at the border remained within 4000-5000 persons per year in the past decade.
As of 2020, the immigrant stock in Turkey was estimated at 6.052.652, with most migrants being nationals of Syria, Germany, Iraq, North Macedonia, Afghanistan and Greece. In 2019, the immigration flow amounted to 677.042, of whom 98.554 were Turkish citizens and 578.488 were foreign nationals. In 2020, foreigners received 123.574 work permits. Of these, 62.369 were acquired by Syrians, followed by 9.721 Turkmens, 4.873 Georgians, 4.383 Uzbeks, and 4.015 Iranians. Most work permits were issued for employment in domestic work, textile, and trade. At the end of July 2022, a total of 1.427.076 immigrants had residency permits in Turkey.
Over the past decade, Turkey received four million asylum-seekers, mainly from Syria, thereby hosting the largest refugee population in the world. By mid-2022, the number of Syrians living in Turkey under temporary protection amounted to 3.648.983. While this put an undue burden on the migration management capacities of the country, Turkey has also economically benefited from the Syrian migration. By 31 March 2022, 200.950 Syrians acquired Turkish citizenship and 505.190 returned to Syria since the beginning of the war in 2011. In addition, Turkey received 29.256 new applications for international protection in 2021, a sharp decrease compared to the peak of 114.537 in 2018. Nationals of Afghanistan, followed by Iraq and Iran, constituted the largest share of applicants. In the context of the war in Ukraine, 140.000 Ukrainians, who are subject to a visa-waiver program, entered Turkey by May 2022.
Though Turkey had an open-door policy for Syrians at the beginning of the war in 2011, its eastern borders were tightened in 2016. The same year, Turkey signed a Statement with the EU, taking an obligation to prevent irregular travel between Turkey and the Greek islands and accept people who arrived from Turkey to the Islands irregularly. For each person returned to Turkey, the EU agreed to resettle one Syrian who waited in Turkey and provide funds to Turkey to aid the Syrian community. By mid-2022, 34.499 Syrians were resettled from Turkey to EU counties, mainly to Germany. Beyond the EU, 19.226 Syrians were resettled from Turkey to countries such as Canada, the US, and the UK between 2014 and 2022. The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement has also seen its share of criticism and controversy, yet this cooperation will likely continue.
Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with FRONTEX to stop irregular entries in 2012. Since then, border management technologies and strategies have been strengthened and diversified. In June 2022, Turkey introduced a mandatory check of travel warrants for anyone transporting foreigners between different Turkish provinces to deter the movement of irregular migrants in the country. 162.996 people without documents including 70.252 Afghans and 23.469 Syrians were detected in Turkey in 2021, a sharp decrease from 454.662 recorded in 2019. By mid-April 2022, Turkey detected 55.627 and deported 21.087 irregular immigrants, and prevented 127.256 irregular entries.
In 2013, Turkey adopted the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, providing Syrians with the legal basis for acquiring temporary protection. In 2018, the country transitioned to a presidential system and the Presidency of Migration Management became the key actor in migration management. This has resulted in a greater focus on national security in terms of immigration. In 2021, the country adopted the Strategy and the National Action Plan on Irregular Migration, which prioritize voluntary returns, international cooperation, and readmission agreements. Since 2016, Turkey has run citizenship by investment program, under which 25.969 foreigners, increasingly Russians, acquired Turkish passports.
Turkey was one of the five co-conveners of the Global Refugee Forum and endorsed the Global Compact on Refugees with a specific focus on international responsibility-sharing. The country is a party to the Prague Process and the Chair of the Budapest Process.