Turkey Germany migration

The Relation Between Immigration and Security Policies in Turkey and Germany

In this article I am going to compare the relation between immigration and security policies in Turkey and Germany. I will be looking at how the two states, a European and a non-European, and two distinct governments, an Islamic Conservative Democratic one and a National Conservative one, are reacting to immigration to their state-territory at a legislative level.

In both countries, the governments in power construct their understanding of security differently; as security is not lying in the substance of things. Security, which means the absence of a threat, is experienced with respect to the character of a political unit, its vulnerabilities, its order of priorities, as well as the character of the interacting political units.Immigration is not a security issue in and of itself, but a political decision by the political authority about whether or not to considerimmigration as a security issue.

The security policies related to immigration in some countries grant immigrants the access to rights and legality in the host country if their identities are considered compatible by the host countries government identities are considered compatible with the host country in terms of ethnicity, religion and political affiliation. Dealing with immigration in a political framework, in contrast, means that the access to rights, legality, and the political space of the host country, in principle, is granted to all immigrants, regardless of  their ethnic origin/nationality, faith, social class etc.

In Turkey, immigration developed into a security issue, with the foundation of the Turkish Republic under the Kemalist regime. Due to the nation-state building project that started in 1923, which followed the example of  modern ethnic nationalism in Western Europe the ruling elites wanted to create an ethnicallyhomogenous Turkish nation. Thus, since that time, people that were not of Turkish ethnic origin, where not allowed to enter the country any longer.  This development, of migration becoming a security issue in Turkey, during the founding years of the Turkish Republic, manifests itself in the 1934 Turkish Settlement Law.  This migration law conceptualised almost all non-ethnic Turks, as a national security threat. Non-ethnic Turks, since the ratification and implementation of this law,  were no longer given immigration papers and nationality declaration documents.

Today, the 1934 Turkish Settlement Law has been replaced by the EU-inspired Law on Foreigners and International Protection, in which, due to the influence of the international community, the issue of immigration to Turkey has been de-securitized (especially de-ethnicized) to a certain extent. Therefore, nowadays, Turkey does not confine immigration into its country to people of Turkish ethnic origin any longer, and in principle- Turkey also affirms obligations towards all persons in need of international protection. Nevertheless, despite the formulation of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection by the current AKP government, organizations that are monitoring humanrights in Turkeyobservedthat there was still a tendency towards securitizing the immigration of people of different ethnic origin, faith or political loyalties to Turkey.

When compared with the political practices towards immigrants by the Kemalist authorities, what really changed in Turkish authorities’attitude  towards immigrants under the AKP government, is the identity features that are considered incompatible in relation to the Turkish state and nation. The Turkish government still regards certain immigrant groups composed of individuals of different faith (Shia Muslims and Yezidis, for example), or of different political affiliation as a security threat to the integrity of Turkish state. or the social cohesion of its nation.

Whereas, German political authorities, in principle, do not have preferences for any legal subject when it comes to immigration, not in the immigration legislationand not in its application. Thus, migration in Germany is not considered as a security threat to the state, the understanding of which is based on a liberal democratic ground, but by trend is considered more as a security threat to the societal security of the nation. Thus, some parts of German society fear that the (organic) ethnic German collective identity is threatened in its survival due to mass-immigration of non-ethnic German refugees, and thus, that there societal particularities and moral structure, potentially could not survive. Thus, in the German political landscape first and foremost there is the tendency that immigration into its country is perceived more of an identity-threat to the nation, rather than a political threat to the integrity of the state. But this perceived threat to the societal security in Germany is encountered by putting an emphasis on integration.

Hence, the difference in the political practices towards immigrants between the Turkish authorities and the German authorities: processes of securitization of immigrants in Germany are more exceptional when compared to processes of securitization of immigrants in Turkey. German authorities in general only consider very specific immigrants, such as those that are connected to Islamic extremism or are suspected to be in danger to be radicalized, as a security threat to their nation. The application of security policies in relation to immigration in Germany, insofar, seems to be targeted to immigrants that individually pose a security threat, while in Turkey immigrationsecurity policies are more applied on group membership criteria. Thus, in comparison with the Turkish authorities’practices concerning immigrants, German authorities do not consider immigrants a security threat based on general criteria such as nationality, ethnic origin, faith, or political loyalty.

Another difference between Germany and Turkey in dealing with migration on the legislative level and in their political practices is how they establish security in relation to immigration to their countries, in general and in specific cases.

The German political authorities, formulated integration policies and use integration as a means to  establish security, in relation to migration. Overall, in Germany there is the conviction, that security can be achieved through the integration of immigrants on different levels,  integration into the labour market, language integration, value integration, and social integration.

An example for integration in Germany is the labour market integration of refugees.The norms for the labour market integration of refugees are set by the federal government, however the specifics of how the labour market integration of refugees within the different Bundesländeris organised, is decided by the local federal governments. Insofar, the policies are designed vertically, but managed horizontally. Moreover, the Federal government and the local authorities at Bundes-ebenedo also collaborate with many NGO`s and CSO`s when it comes to the implementation of integration policies .Furthermore, there are services enterprises, together with business associations, trade associations, chamber`s  of commerce, religious communities, unions, employers, associations and welfare organisations, thus players at all levels of political decision making, that are assisting with the implementation of integration polices.

Overall in Germany there is the conviction that by providing immigrants with equal opportunities and the opportunity of accessing equal rights in the host country, trust in the society and thus also security will be maintain.

Turkish political authorities, in contrast, did not approach the security question that arose with the mass immigration of Syrians since 2013, by trying to integrate the refugees. According to an article published in the Turkish Policy Quarterly in fall 2016, there is still no officially formulated comprehensive integration policy aimed at incorporating immigrants and refugees in the wider societal context in Turkey. The same report states that Turkish authorities, still do not recognize the fact that Turkey has turned into an immigration country. Therefore, so the report states, the Turkish authorities are hesitating to develop new strategies to cope with the challenge of immigration. Insofar, at the moment, immigrants, but especially refugees, such as the Syrians, are tolerated by the Turkish authorities and given some rights to access the labour market, but they are still not given the opportunity to integrate fully. The lack of a full-scale integration can be observed by looking at the geographical distributionof Syrian refugees on Turkish soil. Most of them still reside or are forced to reside by the government in the South-Eastern Turkish provinces, next to the Syrian border. Nevertheless, due to the influence of international organizations such as IOL (International Labour Organization) and IOM (International Organization for Migration), which collaborate with the DGMM (Ministry Of Interior Directorate General Of Migration Management), the Turkish government is slowly accepting that many Syrians no longer want to leave Turkey, and is realizing that they have to tackle the issue of mass immigration into Turkey by integrating immigrants. Therefore, IOL in cooperation with IOM and the DGMM, are now in the process of establishing integration projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Examples of integration policies for Syrian refugees in Turkey are economic integration policies to access the labour market. At least access to work permits for Syrians who are under “temporary protection”has been facilitated since January 2016. NGO`s and INGO`s that usually care for the urban based refugee population, but are also sometimes active for the refugee camp population are assisting the Turkish government with the implementation of this `harmonisation policies`, by for example organising vocational trainings. Overall however, authorities on the local provincial level have no power to influence the formulation and implementation of integration policies, according to the perceived needs of their local communities. In Turkey, due to the special implementation of the unitary state system, it is namely the case, that federalism is considered a threat to the integrity to the state. Taking into consideration the status quo of Turkey`s integration policies for immigrants, it can be concluded that the current Turkish government does not aim to achieve security in relation to migration, by distributing equal rights and thereby creating trust and stability.

Immigrants and refugees that pose a specific security risk in both countries are approached by the respective authorities with the application of extraordinary measures. In Germany, political authorities, in order to achieve security in relation to immigrants that are considered to pose a  specific security threat, employ extraordinary measures, such as surveillance, detention and deportation. Laws to facilitate the application of such extraordinary measures in Germany, created due to the perception by the German government of increased potential threats posed by immigrants that misused the asylum system to organize terror-attacks in 2016, have been softened recently.

Also in Turkey, authorities employ extraordinary measures when dealing with immigrants that are considered to pose a specific security threat. The application of extraordinary measures in order to deal with so called  “foreigners that are found undesirable on grounds of public order or public security”as it is formulated in the LFIP,  reach from: firstly,preventing immigrants and refugees from accessing political rights and participating in political processes, and secondly, deporting immigrants and refugees, or not letting them enter Turkish state-territory at all.

In conclusion, it can be said, that the function of security based immigration policies in both countries, is to produce stability. However, the current Turkish government, in general, considers more immigrants a security threat than the current German government does. Secondly, access to political rights for immigrants/refugees in Turkey, in practice are still conditional, sometimes dependent on primordial categories such as ethnicity (Turkmen refugees in Turkey enjoy many advantages compared to other refugees of different ethnicity), but also religion and assumed political affiliations of immigrants and refugees. Thus, Turkey, when considered with Ole Waever`s securitization theory in mind, can be considered as a weak state, taken into account that the government in many cases did not and does not accept emerging standards of civilization such as human rights and democracy, especially when it comes to dealing with immigrants/refugees. German authorities in their political practices towards immigrants are more in accordance with general democratic criteria and criteria defined in humanrights legislation. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged, that even though the German government in general demonstrates more political will towards immigrants and securitizes them less as a state in legislation and in practice,the German government also securitizes immigrants and refugees to a great extent. The difference is that German authorities outsource the securitization of immigration to third-world countries, such as Turkey, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia; or outsource the securitization of immigration through the Dublin II agreement to Southern European States such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Thus, Germany is a strong state in general, when it comes to respecting humanrights within its own territorial borders. Nevertheless, Germany as leader of the European Union has a lot of international treaties with other countries, in which they securitize immigration.Therefore, the question has to be asked whether or not Germany is really a strong state and a moral leader when it comes to dealing with immigrants, but especially refugees, in comparison with Turkey? Does not also Germany, though it outsources the securitization of immigration to Turkey and pays four billion dollar over the next three years to contain 2.5 million refugees in Turkey, has a moral vacuum at its heart?

Overall, the specific ways the securitization in relation to immigration has developed in Turkey and Germany over the last century show that Turkey is in the process of liberalizing its immigration policies, while Germany is already more advanced in this process. However, processes of securitization and thus exclusionary politics are happening in both countries, only the precise way in which migrants and refugees are securitized by both countries, is different.

Nina Egger

Nina Egger is a versatile and professional anthropology research graduate with an inter-disciplinary background in theoretical and applied knowledge on issues surrounding Middle East, intercultural hermeneutics, community conceptions, identity politics, refugee rights, international institutions, civil society, and security politics. Nina Egger has a B.A. degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology from the University of Vienna and an M.A. in Migration Studies from the University of Copenhagen.

Images sources: Wikipedia, © NinaPilarhEgger Photography


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