At the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, Turkey faces irregular migration flows, both as a country of destination and of transit: the irregular migration flows to the country consist mainly of transit migrants, clandestine immigrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees.
In the last decade, the major migration flows into Turkey have come from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while significant numbers have also arrived from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Georgia. Migrants from the former countries are mainly transients heading for Europe or other more developed parts of the world. They stay in Turkey only on a temporary basis. Migrants from the latter group of countries are foreign nationals who intend to work illegally in Turkey, for a limited period of time.
Turkey’s position over the 1951 Geneva Convention, excluding non-European asylum seekers, further complicates the situation as non-Europeans account for the majority of asylum seekers in Turkey. Another feature of migration to Turkey is the national diversity of the immigrants: authorities in Turkey have identified 163 nationalities that have arrived in the country in the last decade.
Clearly, Turkey has become a country with multiple roles in irregular migratory movements. Utilising a relatively revealing data set on the apprehending of irregular migrants provided by the security forces together with the findings of several surveys conducted in the country, this paper, first, documents the irregular migration experience in Turkey over the last 30 years. It also relates the phenomenon of irregular migration in Turkey to the wider context of European international migratory regimes. Then the paper outlines the developments associated with irregular migration in the country. The role of Turkey’s EU affairs within these changes is complex and contradictory, and not yet fully explored.
After describing irregular migration, the paper explores, finally, the way in which the political construction of irregular migration is associated with the securitisation and economisation of international migratory regimes in Europe and around its peripheries.