In 2019, Turkey received 578 000 new immigrants, 24% more than in 2018. Iraq, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Turkmenistan registered the strongest increase (45 000) and Iraq the largest decrease (-26 000) in flows to Turkey compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -44.5%, to reach around 31 000. The majority of applicants came from Afghanistan (23 000), Iraq (5 900) and Iran (1 400). The largest decrease since 2019 concerned nationals of Afghanistan (-12 000). Of the 43 000 decisions taken in 2020, 19.4% were positive.

Emigration of Turks to OECD countries increased by 2% in 2019, to 70 000. Approximately 43% of this group migrated to Germany, 9% to the Netherlands and 8% to the United States.

In Turkey, the main concerns are related to the integration of people under international protection, as well as their prospect for voluntary and safe return.

As a part of combatting irregular migration, a major dimension of migration management, Turkey’s Strategy Document and National Action Plan on Irregular Migration (2021-21) was adopted to take national and international actions against migrant smuggling and human trafficking. Actions include increased border security, identification of irregular migrants staying in the country and their removal based on human rights-based policies in co-operation with national and international stakeholders and measures to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals.

In early March 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis hit Turkey, Syrian refugees together with many asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants from many other countries trying to cross the borders to Europe had to leave the border zone and go back to their place of residence or were quarantined in the designated facilities by governmental authorities.

In response to COVID-19 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided not to pursue overstay penalties against foreign nationals unable to depart due to the virus if they left Turkey within one month of the international border opening date. The proviso was that they showed evidence of their inability to depart, such as a cancelled flight reservation. Appointment dates for foreigners who have applied for residence permits in Istanbul were postponed and residence cards automatically renewed. The government also decided that all regular migrants with temporary residence or/and work permits, together with refugees/asylum seekers who needed renewal of their documents could do so online, with no deportation if procedures were delayed.

The measures in the National Strategy on Harmonization and the National Action Plan, adopted by the Turkish Government in February 2018, became important integration policy tools to encourage dialogue and interaction between refugees, host communities and service providers while supporting local communities in receiving refugees. Similarly, the Eleventh Development Plan (2019-23), which was approved by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on 18 July 2019, included direct reference to the implementation of policies targeting the integration of Syrian refugees.

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