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Turkey: Migration
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Population > Migration

MIGRATION


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. 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. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) initiated the program of accepting Turkish guest workers. In the 1990s, however, Germany adopted a policy of economic incentives to encourage the voluntary repatriation of Turkish workers. At the end of 1994, an estimated 1.1 million Turks continued to reside in Western Europe as semipermanent aliens. About two-thirds of these Turkish migrants lived in Germany, and another 10 percent in France. Other European countries with sizable Turkish communities included Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. In addition, at least 150,000 Turks were working in Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf.

Data as of January 1995




Last Updated: January 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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