Immigration to Turkey


Immigration to Turkey

Since the 19th century, an exodus by the large portion of Turkish (Turkic) and Muslim peoples (who are termed "Muhacir" under a general definition) from the Balkans (Balkan Turks, Albanians, Bosniaks, Pomaks), Caucasus (Abkhazians, Ajarians, 'Circassians', Chechens), Crimea (Crimean Tatar diaspora), Crete (Cretan Turks), Central Asia and even Africa took refuge in present-day Turkey and moulded the country's fundamental features.

Historically, the Ottoman Empire — and the Turkish republic succeeding it — were the primary destination for Muslim refugees from areas conquered — or re-conquered — by Christian powers, notably Russia in the Caucasus and Black Sea areas, Austria-Hungary in the Balkans, and Greece. This has continued to the present day, with large numbers of Bosniak and Chechen refugees entering Turkey as a consequence of wars in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990s. Large numbers of Kurds fled north from Iraqi Kurdistan during the First Gulf War in 1991, though nearly all repatriated after the cessation of hostilities and the establishment of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq in the same year.

Nonetheless, the Ottoman Empire was also a popular destination for non-Muslim refugees: the most obvious examples are the Sephardic Jews given refuge mainly in the 16th century with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain ("as well as before and afterwards"), whose descendants form the core of the community of Jews in Turkey today; and the village of Polonezköy in İstanbul, founded in 1881 by Polish settlers who, after the Crimean War, did not wish to return to Poland, occupied by foreign powers at the time.

There are other more curious cases on which more detailed research needs to be done to establish a sound basis. One is the case of Hungarians claimed to have taken refuge in Gebze in early 19th century, and whose descendants might be among the inhabitants of Gebiz municipality depending Serik district in Antalya Province (see Karapinar).

Yet another concerns various claims relating Vendéens, especially of Cholet, who would have been accorded asylum by the sultan Abdülhamid I after the Revolt in the Vendée and settled in various Turkish provinces. On a more ascertainable basis, there were several thousand Cossacks in Turkey for two centuries, near Manyas and Akşehir, until 1962, when they were repatriated to Russia.

Trends of immigration towards Turkey continues to this day, although the motives are more varied and are usually in line with the patterns of global immigration movements — Turkey, for example, receives many economic migrants from nearby countries such as Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, but also from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Pakistan and so on.

Refugees and Asylum-seekers

According to figures provided by Ankara office of the UN High Comissionner for Refugees, a total of 32,832 people are recorded as having made a valid asylum application in Turkey since 1998. Of these, 3900 Iranians and 2200 Iraqis, 400 Somalians and 300 Afghans are still in the country, while an additional 1400 Chechens, who are in a "refugee-like situation", are deemed of concern. [ [http://www.unhcr.org/home/PUBL/4492678ae.pdf UNHCR Ankara Office] . UNHCR has four offices in Turkey; namely Ankara, İstanbul, Van and Silopi. ]

Illegal and legal immigration into and through Turkey

During the decade 1915 to 1925, the country experienced large population transfers--a substantial movement outward of minority groups and an influx of refugees and immigrants. The first major population shift began in 1915, when the Ottoman government, for a variety of complex and in some instances contradictory reasons, decided to deport an estimated 2 million Armenians from their historical homeland in eastern Anatolia (see Armenians, this ch.; World War I, ch. 1). The movement of Greeks out of Turkey, which began during the 1912-13 Balkan Wars, climaxed in the 1920s with an internationally sanctioned exchange of population between Turkey and the Balkan states, primarily. In accordance with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey accepted approximately 500,000 Muslims, who were forced to leave their homes in the Balkans, in exchange for nearly 2 million Greeks, who were forced to leave Anatolia. By special arrangement, Greeks living in Istanbul and Turks living in the Greek part of Thrace were exempted from the compulsory exchanges.

After 1925 Turkey continued to accept Muslims speaking Turkic languages as immigrants and did not discourage the emigration of members of non-Turkic minorities. More than 90 percent of all immigrants arrived from the Balkan countries. Between 1935 and 1940, for example, approximately 124,000 Bulgarians and Romanians of Turkish origin immigrated to Turkey, and between 1954 and 1956 about 35,000 Muslim Slavs immigrated from Yugoslavia. In the fifty-five-year period ending in 1980, Turkey admitted approximately 1.3 million immigrants; 36 percent came from Bulgaria, 30 percent from Greece, 22.1 percent from Yugoslavia, and 8.9 percent from Romania. These Balkan immigrants, as well as smaller numbers of Turkic immigrants from Cyprus and the Soviet Union, were granted full citizenship upon their arrival in Turkey. The immigrants were settled primarily in the Marmara and Aegean regions (78 percent) and in central Anatolia (11.7 percent).

The most recent immigration influx was that of Bulgarian Turks and Bosnian Muslims. In 1989 an estimated 320,000 Bulgarian Turks fled to Turkey to escape a campaign of forced assimilation. Following the collapse of Bulgaria's communist government that same year, the number of Bulgarian Turks seeking refuge in Turkey declined to under 1,000 per month. In fact, the number of Bulgarian Turks who voluntarily repatriated--125,000--exceeded new arrivals. By March 1994, a total of 245,000 Bulgarian Turks had been granted Turkish citizenship. However, Turkey no longer regards Bulgarian Turks as refugees. Beginning in 1994, new entrants to Turkey have been detained and deported. As of December 31, 1994, an estimated 20,000 Bosnians were living in Turkey, mostly in the Istanbul area. About 2,600 were living in camps; the rest were dispersed in private residences.

In 1994 the government claimed that as many as 2 million Iranians were living in Turkey, a figure that most international organizations consider to be grossly exaggerated. Turkey is one of the few countries that Iranians may enter without first obtaining a visa; authorities believe that the relative ease of travel from Iran to Turkey encourages many Iranians to visit Turkey as tourists, or to use Turkey as a way station to obtain visas for the countries of Europe and North America. Consequently, as many as 2 million Iranians actually may transit Turkey--including multiple reentries for many individuals--in a given year. Specialized agencies of the European Union and the United Nations that deal with issues of migrants and refugees believe a more realistic figure of the number of Iranians who live in Turkey, and do not have a residence in Iran or elsewhere, is closer to 50,000.

In the 1960s, working-age Turks, primarily men, began migrating to Western Europe to find employment as guest workers. Many of these Turkish workers eventually brought their families to Europe. An estimated 2 million Turkish workers and their dependents resided in Western Europe in the early 1980s, before the onset of an economic recession that led to severe job losses. problem in Turkey, with the global parties directly involved often extending a lesser helping hand than Turkey itself to resolve the precarious situation of immigrants stranded in passage. [ [http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/europaheute/599804 Iraq's Christians on the run] (in German)]

ee also

*Republic of Turkey
*Turkish diaspora

References


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