The Syrian Exodus: Analyzing Migration Dynamics and Refugee Integration in Turkey

Çağatay ÇAY
TUİÇ Association Event Coordinator


The article covers various global issues and migration policies. The first section examines the complex dynamics of migration policies, extending to present challenges, notably the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey. It emphasizes the shift from temporary to permanent solutions and the importance of accurately defining the problem. The second section critiques Ager and Strang’s model for neglecting migrant community dynamics, highlighting the multidimensional, reciprocal nature of integration from the perspectives of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles and the European Commission. The complexity of refugee integration, particularly for those with insecure legal status, is emphasized. The third section explores challenges facing immigrants in Turkey, encompassing legal status, housing shortages, and employment difficulties in the informal sector. Negative social perceptions arise from economic concerns and fears of competition. Effective migration management is stressed to address security issues, proposing solutions for integration problems, especially among Syrian refugees. The fourth section examines evolving perspectives on migration, refugees, and asylum seekers in Turkey, emphasizing their impact on national and universal legal norms. It explores societal, cultural, and economic consequences for both host and sending countries, addressing challenges such as social issues. Overall, the article underscores the urgent need for individuals, societies, and governments to address the challenges facing the world today. It emphasizes tackling migration issues, promoting social integration efforts, enhancing critical thinking skills, and developing policies and practices ensuring the safety and well-being of immigrants and refugees.

Keywords: Turkey’s Immigration Policies, Social Cohesion Studies, Migrant Crisis in Turkey, Turkey’s Migrant Relations, Refugee Integration


Migration and migration policies is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history, but its increasing scale and complexity have made it a crucial issue for many countries. The effects of migration can be both positive and negative, impacting not only the economic and social structures of host countries but also the cultural and demographic makeup of sending countries. In this context, it is essential to approach migration and asylum-seeking issues sensitively, focusing on respecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of all individuals involved. They highlight the need for comprehensive policies and practices that promote the integration of immigrants and refugees while also addressing the social, economic, and political challenges that arise from their arrival. Negative perceptions of immigrants and refugees in the media can exacerbate existing tensions and lead to a loss of image for host countries. Moreover, the burden of providing for the basic needs of immigrants and refugees, such as housing, security, health, and nutrition, can be overwhelming, leading to social, political, and economic problems. These challenges are further complicated by the current global health crisis, which has further exposed the vulnerability of migrants and refugees and heightened the need for protective policies and measures. To address these challenges, policies that promote living together and reduce prejudiced attitudes towards foreigners, institutionalize channels for finding employment, and ensure that economic resources contribute to the host country’s economy, are crucial. Additionally, clear and understandable explanations of laws and rights and media communication can aid foreign residents in navigating the legal system and accessing consumer and legal remedies. In conclusion, addressing the challenges of migration and asylum-seeking requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes protecting human rights and values. By promoting comprehensive policies and practices that foster integration, respect, and inclusion, countries can create a more welcoming and prosperous environment for all residents, regardless of their origins.

1. Migration Policies in Turkey

The act of migration involves the movement of populations due to temporary or permanent displacement, either within a country or across international borders (General Directorate of Migration Management, 2019a, s.18). People or groups leave their homes voluntarily or are forced to do so due to factors like civil war, oppression, or fear, making migration a multidimensional phenomenon that has profound social, political, and economic effects on human life. Throughout history, refugees have found sanctuary in the Anatolian lands along migration routes. In the pre-modern period, the Ottoman Empire accepted different ethnic and religious groups and allowed them to maintain their cultural identities within the existing administrative, political, and economic system (Çolak, 2017, s.34). However, in the process of nation-state building, policies were put in place that are now the source of many problems, including terrorism, and the Resettlement Law of 1934 continues to be criticized for issues such as entry into Turkish citizenship and ethnic discrimination (İçduygu et al., 2014, s.126). Turkey is currently facing a major humanitarian crisis due to instability in the region, and as of April 2019, 3,606,208 Syrians have taken refuge in the country, making it the most significant population movement in Turkish history (General Directorate of Migration Management, 2019b). Turkey’s policy towards Syrian refugees has been based on three principles: an open-door policy, meeting basic needs, and the principle of non-refoulment (Özcan, 2018, s.19). Initially, Syrians were considered temporary residents, and permanent solutions were not sought. However, since the civil war has lasted longer than expected, and the future stability of their country remains uncertain, more permanent policies need to be put in place. The fact that 415,582 babies were born to Syrian refugees in Turkey in eight years as of November 2018 indicates that Syrians tend to stay in the country (General Directorate of Migration Management, 2019b). As a result, migration policies that address the entire country’s needs must be developed since Syrians are now living in cities throughout Turkey rather than just in border towns or camps. Although the migration from Syria, which has led to this humanitarian crisis, is a phenomenon that affects both social life and public order, there is difficulty in defining the problem correctly. Thus, to solve the problem, it is essential to define it accurately.

2. Refugee Integration

The concept of integration varies from one country to another. While Castles and others (2002, s. 12) suggest that there is no universally accepted definition, theory, or model of immigrant and refugee integration, the term is defined differently by immigrants, policymakers, and academics (Robinson, 1998). Integration, in general, is a concept that encompasses the rights, settlement processes, and legal regulations of (forced) migrants (Bidea, 2016; Gineste, 2016; Kern, 2016; Li, 2003; Saggar and Somerville, 2012; Strang and Avger, 2010).

The growing academic literature on integration has been influenced by Ager and Strang’s (2004) model, which presents a framework for elucidating integration processes. It is organized around ten areas, which are divided into four headings: “rights” (employment, housing, education, health), “social connections” (social bridges, social ties, social networks), “facilitators” (language and cultural knowledge, security and stability), and “determinants” (rights and citizenship). Ager and Strang (2008) offer a comprehensive schema for integration that centers on the accessibility and availability of immigrants and refugees. This schema identifies key impact areas concerning employment, health, housing and education, rights and citizenship, social connections, and the social and cultural barriers associated with such connections. While this approach provides a means of comprehending the constituents and areas of integration and contributes to understanding integration processes, it fails to consider the dynamics of migrant communities, refugees’ situations, and their circumstances.

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) defines refugee integration as a multidimensional and two-way process that involves (forced) migrants, settled population, and other communities (ECRE, 1999, p. 2002). According to Stubbs (1996, p. 36), integration attempts to facilitate economic and social resources, equalization of rights-political and regional equality, and the development of cultural changes and new cultural forms among refugees and others. Phillimore (2012, p. 3) stresses the importance of access to “rights and resources such as education, employment, and housing,” as well as the development of social relationships between immigrants and the host society and a sense of belonging to the host community.

The integration processes of refugees outside of Europe can differ from those in Western countries regarding legal status and access to basic rights (Dorais, 2002; Hyndman and Hynie, 2016; Kallick and Mathema, 2016). Therefore, understanding the experiences of refugees in host communities is critical to comprehending integration processes. Integration is thus defined as a multidimensional process that begins from the moment of arrival in a new country and emphasizes the intersection between legal status and refugee integration. Studies on refugee integration have not given attention to the integration processes of refugees without legal status or limited access to basic rights, but the integration processes of refugees with insecure legal status and limited rights highlight the need for attention to this essential issue.

The European Commission, in its Communication on Migration, Integration, and Employment (EC, 2003) in 2003, adopted a more comprehensive view of integration policies and defined integration as a reciprocal “two-way process based on the reciprocity of the rights and obligations of third-country nationals and the communities in which they reside.” Integration is perceived as a balance between rights and obligations, and policies embrace a holistic approach that targets all aspects of integration, including economic, social, and political rights, cultural and religious diversity, citizenship, and participation.

The Stockholm Program, the third multiannual program in the area of Freedom, Security, and Justice (AFSJ), stressed in 2010 that integration is not solely the responsibility of national, regional, and local authorities, but it also entails the commitment of both the host society and migrants. The European Commission, in 2011, redefined integration as a three-way process, asserting that “origin countries can play a role in supporting the integration process of migrants and the host society” rather than a two-way process between migrants and the host society (EC, 2011, p.10).

3. Adaptation Problems of Immigrants in Turkey

Many problems related to migration and integration in Turkey can be mentioned. Upon examining conducted research, issues regarding legal status, housing, employment, education, security, and social exclusion can be observed in relation to societal perception of daily life. This section discusses these problems and provides recommendations regarding the integration process. The most significant issues faced by immigrants consist of 129 problems, including legal status and housing, learning the local language, adapting to urban life, and, in the case of children, attending education, employment, healthcare, basic cultural needs, and inability to express their opinions (Özservet, 2015: 106). A thorough examination of these issues is necessary, and integration policies should be developed within this framework. If migration management is executed effectively, it can lead to positive results in economic and cultural terms. However, if done poorly, it can result in negative consequences, including human rights violations and becoming a threat to security and public order (Migration and Integration Report, 2018: 240). In order to prevent these security and public order issues, it is essential to develop appropriate solutions to the problems of Syrian refugees regarding migration and integration.

3.1. Housing Problems

One of the challenges that arise with the increasing immigrant population in our country is the difficulty in finding adequate housing. The problem of housing shortages can be attributed to various factors, such as the insufficient availability of rental properties, escalating housing prices due to rising demand from immigrants, the rental of inadequate living spaces, and the construction of illegal dwellings by locals who seek to rent to tenants. In addition, immigrants may be forced to live in overcrowded or substandard living conditions due to the unavailability of suitable housing options. Although Syrian people’s preference to live together in the suburbs and pay lower rent is understandable, this trend can create security issues and hinder integration into society in the long run. It may also contribute to the formation of slums and illegal construction. According to ORSAM (2015:16), there is a risk of irregular urbanization if locals continue to build illegal structures on top of or adjacent to their homes in response to the high demand for housing.

3.2. Employment Problems

In addition to the problems of legal status and housing, it is essential for those coming to our country through migration to solve the problem of where and how they will work, in other words, how they will be employed to sustain their lives. Immigrants face many negative consequences when employed in the informal sector, such as exposure to adverse working conditions, lack of social security, low wages, work accidents, and life-threatening working conditions. When 30 Syrians who settled in Istanbul after leaving the camps were asked about their employment-related problems, it was stated that economic integration could not be achieved, immigrants worked in insecure, heavy, and dirty jobs, with long and irregular working hours, low wages, and they faced harassment and violence. Moreover, it was stated that local people react to Syrians, thinking that they are taking their jobs, and discrimination is experienced against Syrians due to this (Yıldırımalp et al., 2017: 122-123).

3.3. Problems Related to Social Perception

The perception of Syrian immigrants who come to our country through migration and their integration process varies among society. Initially, there was a positive approach towards Syrians as guests, but later, the negative social perception was influenced by concerns such as fear of job loss, economic difficulties, rising housing prices, an increase in crime, uncertainty about Syrian’s legal status and their impact on the local population, fear of family breakdown, and insecurity. As mentioned earlier, the first factor negatively affecting social perception is economic concerns. Syrians can easily be otherized due to government officials’ short-term assessment of the situation as “guests” in the early days of Syrian migration. The extension of this situation contributes to the formation of economic concerns (Çetin, 2016: 212). Publicly circulating statements such as “the state deducts from the salaries and pensions of workers and retirees to meet the needs of Syrian refugees” contribute to the negative attitude towards Syrians as expenses made for them are frequently mentioned (Çetin, 2016: 201).

Another factor expected to cause a negative perception towards Syrians is the increase in traffic, streets, and parks of Syrian beggars. This situation raises concerns about incidents such as robbery, snatch theft, and theft. For example, after negative incidents that occurred in Kahramanmaraş in July 2015, it is thought that the placement of beggars in camps reduced people’s concerns (ORSAM, 2015: 38).

4. Effects of Migration on Turkey

Over the historical process, the perspective towards migration, refugees, and asylum seekers has changed. These concepts have revealed the developing aspects of national and universal legal norms. Societies facing the problem of migrants and refugees today have to approach this issue more sensitively. Negative images of immigrants and refugees in written and visual media can affect the image of countries, along with the pressures of international organizations. Problems are sometimes not resolved, and perceptions towards countries may change negatively. These changes result in not only a loss of image in the eyes of international organizations and countries observing the process but also lead to the destruction of such countries’ social, cultural, and economic structures over time. Host countries face problems such as social problems, political deadlock, increasing economic burden, and deepening cultural problems. Countries that send migrants experience population decline, a decrease in birth rates, the emergence of a single socio-cultural structure, and gaps in labor-intensive sectors. In addition, solving humanitarian problems such as housing, security, health, and nutrition of immigrants and refugees in host countries often create a heavy burden. Ultimately, diversifying positively or negatively, the cultural structure of countries that receive migration can lose its uniformity (Ökmen, 2010: 7-8).

Migration is a cultural understanding based on a nomadic culture dating back to history, which is not foreign to Turkish society for our country. The migration of our compatriots who recently came from the Balkans and Turkish workers who later went abroad is evidence that our country has experienced internal and external migration processes. Turkey has become a ‘migration hub’ in recent years due to its geopolitical position. Historically and currently, Turkey is a country that both receives and sends migration and engages in human exchange with other countries because of its conjunctural structure, which intersects the paths of foreign immigrants and refugees of different religions, languages, and races from many countries. Recently, the process of becoming a ‘transitional migration’ country has also been added to this situation. At the same time, one of the regular migration waves that increasingly target our country, which is an important factor in different migration regimes worldwide, is ‘international retired migration.’ Aydın, Muğla, and Antalya provinces, in particular, host European retired immigrants within this migration wave (İçduygu et al., 2014: 315-317).

Looking at Turkey’s migration and asylum policies, it can be seen that until recently, immigrants coming from Turkish descent and culture have settled in our country. However, Turkey, which has faced a significant foreign migration since the 1980s, has had to review its current migration policies and adapt its previous migration policies and practices to new conditions. In this process, international migration has been evaluated with its economic and demographic dimensions as well as security-based evaluations. Moreover, laws related to the entry, residence, work permits, and citizenship acquisition of immigrants have been regulated within the framework of the relevant laws (Ökmen, 2010: 14-15). So much so that with the Foreigners and International Protection Law No. 6458, published and put into effect on 11.04.2013, regulations were made regarding foreigners in Turkey resulting from legal and illegal migration, and thus, it aimed to prevent human rights violations that exist for immigrants and minimize the problems that may arise in our country politically, economically, and publicly. With the law, the issue of international protection has been comprehensively examined for the first time, and international protection perceived as hospitality is now approached in the context of ‘rights’ (Özer, 2011: 76).

States are responsible for protecting their citizens’ fundamental rights, freedoms, and security. However, this responsibility differs for refugees as they cannot receive protection from their country due to various events such as occupation, foreign aggression, foreign sovereignty, or serious public order disturbances. As a result, they have the right to seek asylum for their security. The scope of international protection is limited to providing physical security and creating an environment where individuals can maintain a life with human values (Ökmen, 2010: 17).

To ensure a healthier and faster adaptation:

  • Developing a culture of living together to reduce prejudiced attitudes towards foreigners among our citizens,
  • Creating arguments that would enable foreigners who decide or are forced to live in our country to reach international human rights standards,
  • Institutionalizing existing channels, particularly those for finding employment, for immigrants coming to our country and their families,
  • Ensuring that the economic resources of foreigners who decide to live in our country, mainly through retired migration, contribute to our economy (İçduygu et al., 2014: 325-328).


In conclusion, the four texts provide a broad overview of different aspects of migration, including its causes, consequences, policies, and effects on different countries. It is clear that migration is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can positively and negatively impact individuals, societies, and countries. The Migration Policies in Turkey highlighted the push and pull factors that drive migration and globalization’s impact on people’s movement. The Refugee Integration focused on refugees’ challenges and the importance of providing them with protection, assistance, and integration opportunities. The Adaptation Problems of Immigrants in Turkey discussed the policies and measures that countries could adopt to manage migration and protect the rights of migrants. Finally, The Effects of Migration on Turkey analyzed the effects of migration in Turkey and the policies that the country has implemented to regulate migration and protect the rights of immigrants and refugees. Despite the differences in focus, all emphasized the need for a comprehensive, coordinated, and human rights-based approach to migration that takes into account the interests and needs of all stakeholders involved. This includes addressing the root causes of migration, providing protection and assistance to refugees, ensuring access to legal and social protections for migrants, promoting social and economic integration, and combating discrimination and xenophobia. Furthermore, the texts highlighted the importance of international cooperation and solidarity in addressing migration-related challenges, particularly for countries that are most affected by migration and refugees. This requires a commitment to shared responsibility, burden-sharing, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. In conclusion, while migration is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that presents significant challenges and opportunities, it is clear that it is an inevitable feature of our interconnected and globalized world. Therefore, it is crucial to develop and implement policies and measures that promote safe, orderly, and regular migration, protect the rights and dignity of all migrants, and ensure that migration can contribute to sustainable development and the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Ager, A., & Strang, A. (2008). Understanding integration: A conceptual framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2), 166–191.

Bidea, G. (2016). France: The French Republican model of integration: A potential driver for extremism. Conflict Studies Quarterly, 16, 17-45, Retrieved from

Çetin, İ. (2016). Social and Cultural Integration of Syrian Refugees in Turkey. Sociology Journal, 34, 197- 222.

Commission of the European Communities (2003). Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Immigration, Integration and Employment (COM (2003) 336); Brussels

Directorate General of Migration Management. (2019a). Migration policy. Retrieved from on 15 Nisan 2023.

Dorais, M. (2002). Immigration and integration through a social cohesion perspective. Horizons, 5(2), 4-5.

European Council (2011). EU framework for integration. Retrieved from

European Council on Refugees and Exiles (1999). Position on the integration of refugees in Europe. Retrieved from:

General Directorate of Migration Management. (2017). About harmonization. Retrieved on 15 Nisan 2023 from

General Directorate of Migration Management. (2019b). News. On 20 April 2019 http://www. Accessed from

Gineste, S. (2016). Labour market integration of asylum seekers and refugees in France. European Commission. Retrieved from

Hyndman, J., & Hynie, M. (2016). From newcomer to Canadian: Making refugee integration work. Policy Options Politiques. Retrieved from

İçduygu, A., Erder, S. & Gençkaya, Ö. F. (2014), “Turkey’s International Migration Policies, 1923-2023: From Nation-State Formation to Transnational Transformations”, Koç University Migration Research Center, MİReKOÇ Research Reports, Istanbul.

Immigration General Information. (2018, July 11). Access Date: July 10, 2020,

Kallick, D. D., & Mathema, S. (2016). Refugee integration in the United States. Centre for American Progress. Retrieved from 15112912/refugeeintegration.pdf

Kirişçi, K. (2003), “Turkey: A Transformation from Emigration to Immigration. Country Profiles” Migration Information Source, (, 19.09.2015.

Li, S. P. (2003). Deconstructing Canada’s discourse of immigrant integration. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 4(3), 315-333.

Ökmen, Ö. (2010), “Immigrants in Foreigners Law”, Master’s Thesis, Gazi University, Ankara.

ORSAM, (2015). The Effects of Syrian Refugees on Turkey, ORSAM Report, ORSAM-TESEV Collaboration, No. 195, January.

Özcan, A. S. (2018). Turkey’s Education Policy towards Syrian Students in the Context of Multiculturalism. PESA International Journal of Social Research, 4, 17-29.

Özer, Y. Y. (2011), “International Migration as a New Research Field in Turkish Public Administration”, Istanbul University Journal of Political Sciences Faculty, No. 45,73-88.

Phillimore, J. (2012). Implementing integration in the UK: Lessons for integration theory, policy and practice. Policy and Politics, 40(4), 525–545. doi: 10.1332/030557312X643795

Robinson, V. (1998). Defining and measuring successful refugee integration. Proceedings of ECRE International Conference on Integration of Refugees in Europe. Brussels: ECRE

Saggar, S., & Somerville, W. (2012). Building a British Model of integration in an era of immigration: Policy lessons for Government. Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Strang, A., & Ager, A. (2010). Refugee integration: Emerging trends and remaining agendas. Journal of Refugee Studies, 23(4), 589- 607.

Stubbs, P. (1996). Creative negotiations: Concepts and practice of integration of refugees, displaced persons and local communities in Croatia. In R. Jambresic Kirin and M. Povrzanovic (Eds.), War, Exile, Everyday Life, Zagreb (pp.31–40). Zagreb: Institute for Ethnology and Folklore Research.

Yıldırımalp, S., İslamoğlu, E. and İyem, C. (2017). A Study on the Social Acceptance and Adaptation Process of Syrian Refugees, Bilgi Social Sciences Journal, 35, 107-126.

migration policies -migration policies – migration policies – migration policies – migration policies

Sosyal Medyada Paylaş


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Beğenebileceğinizi Düşündük

ODA 2022: Conflict And Displacement In Ukraine Hurt The Least Developed Across The World

February 24 marked the second year of Russia’s invasion...

The Evolution of Global Society in Human History: A Review of Barry Buzan’s Interpretation

Book Review: "The Evolution of Global Society in Human...

Cosmopolitanism: A Comprehensive Guide

Introduction to CosmopolitanismUnderstanding Cosmopolitanism: A Global Perspective in Today’s...

Book Reviewers Wanted for August 2024 Issue

The team at the Journal of International Relations and...