Turkey’s State Policies during the Mass Refugee Inflows: The Cases of Inflows from Bulgaria (1989), Northern Iraq (1991) and Syria (2011-2015)

Principal Investigator: Ahmet İçduygu

Funder: TUBITAK 1001 Program

Overview: The total number of people forcibly displaced has reached its highest number since World War II.  Out of the nearly 43 million displaced, over 11 million of them are refugees, meaning they have crossed an international border.  Furthermore, the majority of these refugees, approximately 86 per cent, are being housed in developing countries.  Mass refugee flows are not only putting a strain on state capacities, but it is highlighting the apparent flaws in the national and international legal and administrative regulations, which is incompatible to deal with mass refugee flows.  Among tens of countries who are hosting millions of refugees, today, Turkey officially houses the highest number of refugees in the world.  With the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011 and Turkey’s generous open-door policy, over 1.8 million Syrian refugees have found a safe haven in one of Turkey’s 22 camps and across towns and cities scattered throughout the country.  However, as is well known, this is not the first time Turkey is facing a mass influx of refugees into its territories.  The inflows of almost 350,000 refugees from Bulgaria in 1989 and up to 500,000 people from Northern Iraq in 1991 are still very much ingrained in Turkey’s collective memory. However, till date, a comprehensive comparative analysis of these three mass influxes within the framework of Turkish state policies is non-existent.   It is the objective of this project to fill this gap by conducting a comparative analysis of three main refugee influxes into Turkey: The Bulgarian influx of 1989; the 1991 influx from Northern Iraq; and the ongoing 2011-2015 Syrian influx. The comparison of these three cases illustrates some glaring differences: While the Bulgarians were deemed to belong to ‘Turkish descent and culture (soydaş)’ under the Settlement Law (iskan kanunu), the Kurdish case from Northern Iraq highlighted the need to provide temporary protection.  The Syrian refugee crisis has not only forced the Turkish state to provide temporary protection, but since it is becoming a protracted (i.e. long-term) case, issues regarding integration are becoming a dominant theme. This comparison will concentrate on the changing dynamics and mechanisms of migration and asylum policies in Turkey over the past thirty years: the question of how the nation-state-based national and global processes change or resist to change during the heyday of globalization will be discussed with this comparison.

The novelty of this project is three-fold: It will provide the first comprehensive comparative analysis of three major refugee influxes in Turkey, making a significant contribution to the growing literature on mass refugee movements and state responses.  Secondly, by comparing previous experiences and practices during mass inflows, the project will be able to positively inform policy-making decisions regarding the current Syrian refugee crisis and future cases of mass inflows.  Finally, the analysis will shed light onto the limitations of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the prevailing national and international regulations that ground on this convention by providing individual protection rights to refugees through the process of refugee status determination which is incompatible to deal with today’s mass refugee movements.

Ultimately, the project seeks to determine the patterns, similarities and differences in Turkish state perceptions, practices and policies during these three major refugee influx periods. By relying on a solid comparative methodological approach, the project will gather qualitative and quantitative data through (1) secondary literature and data to build up an empirical and theoretical framework (2) discourse analysis of Turkish Parliamentary Debates (3) news analysis of major newspapers (4) in-depth interviews with key government/bureaucratic officials.

Integration and Well-Being of Syrian Youth in Turkey

Researchers: Ahmet İçduygu, Ayşen Üstübici, Ceren Topgül, Maissam Nimer, Onur Nezih Kuru

Funder: TUBITAK and British Council

Overview: The joint project with London School of Economic (LSE) aims at assessing the needs of youth whose status is shifting from refugee to immigrant as a result of the prolonged conflict, and at developing concrete organisational and policy suggestions for social and economic integration. Almost all field studies indicate that as the war continues, Syrian citizens in Turkey are being transformed from temporary refugees to permanent immigrants, investing and planning for a future in this neighboring country. The research will specifically focus on one of the most vulnerable groups within the refugee population: youth whose futures are being put on hold. Children below the age of eighteen constitute approximately half of the refugee population. We will focus on the group between 15 and 30 years of age, a time when one would ordinarily be planning for the future, including  transition from education to labour market, marrying and building a family. Many in this age group would have attended university and started a professional career in Syria. The project will assess their backgrounds, including educational level and skills; their educational, work, and health needs; and their visions of the future. Outputs of the project will include a gender-based analysis of refugee youth needs in terms of education, labour market and health;  a mapping of the institutions that youth use to access opportunities; and concrete recommendations for harnessing the human capital represented by youth in Turkey and for responsibility sharing in Europe.

Local-Integ: Refugees and Local Integration

Principal Investigator: Ayşen Üstübici, Researcher: Ezgi Likya İrgil

Funder: Koc University Seed Fund

Overview: This is a project on local integration of migrants and refugees. Due to Syrian conflict, Turkey is currently the country hosting the highest number of refugees in the world. Realizing that some of newly arrived refugees may settle in Turkey in the long run, integration has slowly entered into the policy agenda in Turkey. As distinct from overwhelming majority of policy oriented research on the subject undertaking macro level analysis on border policies and Turkey-EU relations, the research promises to look at the local integration policies, practices and patterns. The research proposal brings together the literature on migrant incorporation and forced migration by focusing on the question of local integration in the case of migrant and refugee communities in Istanbul. The empirical research will reveal how local authorities (district governors, district municipalities, local civil society) have responded to the arrival of Syrian refugees and of other migrant and refugee groups in the absence of concrete integration policies at the national level. By means of content analysis of policy documents and expert interviews, the research will first analyze whether and to what extent integration issues in the sense providing services, access to rights or facilitating incorporation of newcomers in socio-economic life have entered into the policy agenda of local authorities. In relation to this, focus groups will be conducted to reveal how newly arrived migrant and refugees communities, along with older/settled communities experience integration through access to basic rights and services at the district level taking into account formal and informal incorporation mechanisms and how service providers locate themselves in these emerging discussion of integration, rights, social justice. The empirical research will compare two districts in Istanbul. The findings will be triangulated with best practices identified in the literature to make concrete policy recommendations to improve local governance of international migration. The focus on local integration will provide a case to reflect on broader questions of social cohesion and social justice.

Forced Migration Resource Center

Researchers: Eleni Diker, Damla B. Aksel, Lara Savanije

Overview: Forced Migration Resource Center at Koc University (FMRC) is an online platform established by Migration Research Center at Koc University (MiReKoc) in partnership with Vehbi Koc Foundation (VKV). The platform draws together a diverse collection of reliable and accurate resources concerning forced migration in general and Syrian refugees in particular. The center provides online and free access to anyone – that is, individual researchers, universities, civil society organizations, international organizations, policy makers, media, and displaced persons themselves seeking information into issues related to forced migration and asylum. The primary aim of FMRC is to increase the research capacity of all state and non-state actors working in the field and enhance inter-institutional communication among civil society, academia, policy-makers and international organizations addressing the issue of forced migration. It also aims to prevent the information pollution and regulate the overload of information in the field.

MobileWelfare: European Welfare Systems in Times of Mobility

Researchers: Ayşen Üstübici, Eirini Giannarakis, Ezgi Likya İrgil

Overview: MobileWelfare is an international research project on migration decisions and experiences with welfare arrangements of people living in European countries. Project teams in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey are involved in the project. The MobileWelfare project consists of three components, each with their own focus and approach. In the first component, it is investigated whether a link exists between welfare arrangements and mobility patterns in Europe. For this, quantitative migration data is used. In the second component, the view people have of welfare arrangements in countries where they live now and have lived in the past is studied. For this, interviews are conducted with migrants in the six participating countries, but also with people who never migrated, and people who returned to their country of origin after having lived abroad. Lastly, in the third component it is studied what the role of legislation is for mobile people and how it affects welfare arrangements across Europe. The MobileWelfare project runs for three years between 2015 and 2018 and received funding from Norface (a collaboration between research agencies across Europe).  MiReKoc is an associate member of the project, meaning that MiReKoc is a member of the consortium but not a receiver of Norface funding. The project is run by own resources.

Website: www.mobilewelfare.org

Institutional Habitus and Educational Achievement in a Comparative Perspective between Germany and Turkey

Principal Investigator: Çetin Çelik

Funder: Mercator- Istanbul Policy Centre

Overview: This project seeks to understand how multicultural school policies influence educational achievement and integration of children from working class immigrant and minority backgrounds in Germany and Turkey. The project analyzes the interplay between existing school policies and regulations and students’ integration in the two countries. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with students, teachers and policy makers in Germany and Turkey, it compares two schools and aims to generate data-driven policy recommendations for bettering schools in terms of incorporation of children of immigrants and minorities in Turkey.

Website: http://ipc.sabanciuniv.edu/en/fellow/cetin-celik/

Family - School Interactions; Reproduction of Inequality Through Social, Cultural Capital and Field.

Principal Investigator: Çetin Çelik

Funder: Koç University (Seed Grant)

Overview: This project investigates how socioeconomic factors shape identity formation and educational performance of students in one school over time. It focuses on both how parental resources such as migration background, ethnicity, social and cultural capitals shape parents’ approach to school and how school reacts to these parents. The project explores the effects of these two dynamics on identity formation and educational achievement of students within social conditions generally shaped by forced migration, urban regeneration and social classes.  

School Opportunity Structure and Student Achievement in Comparative Perspective

Funder: European Union 7th Framework for Research Marie Curie CIG

Principal investigator: Çetin Çelik

Overview: The strong separation of vocational education from general education mostly creates homogenous groups and causes social segregation in secondary education. This longitudinal project examines the ways in which school opportunity structures shape access to the resources needed for higher achievement for the students in vocational high school and general high school comparatively in Turkey. It investigates how working and organization of the school types, the climate and practices of schools shape students’ academic motivation and educational success.

Website: http://cordis.europa.eu/result/rcn/166573_en.html

The Effects of Social Class on Academic Achievement: Family – School Relations

Principal Investigator: Çetin Çelik


Overview: This project focuses on the reproduction of educational inequality across the generations. It aims to understand how socioeconomic background characteristics such as parental education, occupational status, income and migration background influence students’ academic achievement in three different schools longitudinally in process. The project employs Bourdieusian social capital approach and aims to understand relationship between social class and educational achievement through informal parental network structure.

Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe (STYLE)

Researcher: Çetin Çelik

Funder: European Union 7th Framework for Research

Overview: This project aims to examine the obstacles and opportunities affecting youth employment in Europe. It includes 25 research partners, an international advisory network and local advisory boards of employers, unions, policy makers and NGOS from over 20 European countries. It specifically compares the patterns of labour market transitions of youth in typical welfare state models. The project has a sharp focus on studying and mapping potential dimensions of disadvantageousness in school to labour market transition such as migration, gender and social class.

Website: http://www.style-research.eu/team/cetin-celik/

Transnational Migration in Transition: Transformative Characteristics of Temporary Mobility of People (EURA-NET)

Researchers: Ahmet İçduygu, İlke Şanlıer Yüksel, Evin Millet, Selin Siviş

Funder: European Union’s 7th Framework Programme

Overview: EURA-NET is an international research project funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for the period 2014-2017. The objective of EURA-NET is to attain an understanding of the current characteristics and related policy impact of temporary transnational mobility of people. The findings in the European-Asian context will provide insights to be applied to other world regions. The project seeks to help national and international policy-makers to address the challenges arising in the increasingly interconnected and demographically mobile world. This is done by discovering how politics structures the movement of people in sending, transit and receiving countries and by shedding light on the international practices and experiences of individual migrants. The research outcomes are communicated in the forms of scientific and policy reports and policy briefs to multi-level interest groups. The project is coordinated by the University of Tampere in Finland, and for Koç University, MiReKoc is participating. EURA-NET runs from 1 February 2014 until 21 January 2017. The findings of the EURA-NET project will be disseminated in the form of policy reports, policy briefs, policy seminars, and other academic publications.


UTA (Finland), CEPS (Belgium), Beijing Normal University (China), Bielefeld University (Germany), University of Macedonia (Greece), KOPINT-TARKI (Hungary), Centre for Development Studies (India), Maastricht University (Netherlands), Scalabrini Migration Center (Philippines), Mahidol University (Thailand), Institute of Ethnology/National Academy of Sciences (Ukraine)

Website: http://www.uta.fi/edu/en/research/projects/eura-net/index.html

Integration and International Migration: Pathways and Integration Policies (INTEGRIM)

Funder: Marie Curie Initial Training Networks

Past fellows: Agnese Lace, Georgiana Turculet, Karolina Nikielska-Sekuła

Administrative assistants: Selin Siviş, Ezgi Likya İrgil

Overview: Funded by the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) call FP7-PEOPLE-2012-ITN, the aim of this research training programme is to structure the existing high-quality research capacity on Migration and Integration policies and processes in the European Union and neighboring countries. Based on a longstanding cooperation, the eight partners involved from Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Portugal, Netherlands, France, Hungary and Turkey are fully committed to establish a joint research and training programme on public policies and processes related with migration and the integration of immigrants. The project duration is 48 months.

Partners: Instituto de Derechos Humanos Pedro Arrupe, Universidad de Deusto (Spain), Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies, Université de Liège (Belgium), Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR), University of Sussex (UK), Instituto de Geografia e Ordenamento do Territorio, Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal), Institutue for Migration and Ethnic Studies, Universiteit van Amsterdam (Netherlands), Center for Policy Studies Central European University (Közép-európai Egyetem) (Hungary), Migrations Internationales, Espaces et Sociétés, Université de Poitiers (France)

Website: http://www.integrim.eu/