Understanding the changing role of the Turkish diaspora

Özge Bilgili & Melissa Siegel


Migration dynamics from Turkey have considerably changed over the last 60 years, which has produced a vast diaspora of around 5 million people. The diaspora's role in the early years of Turkish (labour) migration was characterized in economic terms (remittances and return migration), with the idea that the diaspora would contribute to the country's economic development and welfare. By the time Turkey witnessed economic liberalization in the 1980s, and a transition from temporary migration to permanent settlement of its migrant citizens abroad, the diaspora's obligations toward Turkey did not decline, but changed strategically in favour of the country's political objectives. Turkey now sees its diaspora as a lobbying power both for internal and external relations of the country, and more specifically as its representatives in Europe legitimizing Turkey's claim to EU citizenship. Accordingly, today the policies and Turkish institutions concerned with the diaspora focus not on financial engagement, but on the successful integration of the diaspora in the destination countries, which is expected to consequently benefit the country's image and political claims.

Keywords: Turkey, Diapora, Diaspora Engagement, Migration and Development

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