The population of Turkish people living abroad exceeds 5,5 million people, around 4,6 million of which live in Western European countries. This number increases to 8,5 million, taken into account 3 million Turkish migrants who returned Turkey.
Meeting the needs and bringing solutions to the problems of this community which constitutes one of the most important dimensions of our relations with Western European countries are regarded as one of our foreign policy priorities.
Turkish citizens living abroad are in the responsibility of Directorate General for Consular Affairs. In addition to traditional consular services, our Ministry is closely following the problems of our citizens.
The immigration of Turkish citizens started in the early years of 1960s to compensate the labor force deficit of the rapidly growing West European countries.
In order to facilitate and regulate the movement of labor force, and to meet the needs of employers and workers, Turkey signed Labor Recruitment Agreements with the destination countries beginning with Germany in 1961, followed by Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands in 1964, France in 1965 and Australia in 1967.
The immigration of Turkish workers into Western Europe continued until 1974. From 1974 onwards, Turkish labor force changed its destination towards North Africa, Middle East and Gulf countries. Following the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the labor force was directed towards Russian Federation and Central Asian Countries.
Today, the major part of the Turkish community abroad is permanently residing in the host countries and has obtained the citizenship of these countries.
The Turkish community has contributed significantly to the economic development of the host countries. Most of the community members also contribute to the host countries’ political, social, cultural and economic life not only as blue-collar workers but also as professionals such as academicians, scientists, doctors, journalists, engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, artists, politicians, sportsmen etc.
Integration and Active Participation Concept:
Immigrants diversify and enrich the culture of the society that they live in.
Integration should be regarded as a two-lane process. Within this process, not only the immigrants but also the host country governments should have responsibilities. Host country governments should undertake policies that encourage the participation of the immigrants and embrace them.
It is desired that members of Turkish community actively participate in the social, economic, cultural and political life of host countries while maintaining their ties to their motherland, mother tongue and culture, and live as happy, prosperous, successful individuals respecting local laws and customs.
Xenophobia, Discrimination, Racism and Islamophobia:
Following 9/11, xenophobia, discrimination, racism and Islamophobia against Muslims have increased and gained a new dimension. Turkish community in West Europe constitutes the majority of Muslim population thus is directly affected by these adverse trends.
The attacks and arsons targeting Turkish community members in West European countries have been recently increasing.
It is of high importance for policy makers and media to adopt a responsible attitude to establish understanding and tolerance between host countries and immigrants. The policy makers and media should refrain from statements and attitudes that would exacerbate xenophobia, discrimination and Islamophobia. Confidence between migrants and the host society should also be improved.
Low employment rate is a serious issue for the Turkish community abroad. Unemployment rate among the Turkish community is above the host country’s average. Having a good command of local language contributes a lot to educational success of Turkish community members and increases their chances to be employed. The importance of higher education and vocational training is emphasized on every occasion.
Education and Turkish Mother Tongue Courses:
In order to ensure active participation, it is of vital importance to provide equal opportunity for the immigrants’ children to learn their mother-tongue as well as culture and history.
In this context, the Turkish Government closely follows the conditions of the Turkish community to learn their mother tongue. The Turkish citizens who are bilingual and have the opportunity to preserve their own identity would be a more equipped individual in today’s globalized world and would contribute to further bilateral relations between Turkey and the host countries.
To this end, Turkey appoints, in cooperation with host countries, teachers for Turkish language and culture. Currently 1.694 Turkish language teachers, 92 Turkish language lecturers are posted to the countries where the Turkish people live.
Religious officers are assigned to provide religious services to the Turkish community and help them to perform religious duties. Currently 1.474 religious officers are providing religious services to Turkish community living abroad.
Bilateral Social Security Agreements:
Bilateral social security agreements are signed with the countries where Turkish citizens live in order to guarantee their social security rights both in Turkey and host countries.
The Turkish Ministry of Labor and Social Security has signed such agreements with 30 countries.
The social security agreements allow Turkish citizens to be equally treated abroad in terms of their social security rights and provide them to combine durations of their insured services in both countries.