Having the geographical position at the cross roads of Asia, Europe and Africa, Turkey has been facing migration flows of economic migrants or refugees/asylum-seekers both as a destination country and a transit country for decades.
Since the early 1990s, Turkey has been a transit country for migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. It has recently emerged as a destination for migrants from Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Turkey is a country with a big population of asylum seekers. The country maintains a geographical limitation as obliged by the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and it grants refugee status only to European asylum-seekers. Migration issues in Turkey are shaped by its efforts to become a member of the European Union (EU), which are creating pressures for an overhaul of its immigration and asylum policies.
The number of persons of concern registered by UNHCR until 21st March 2013 is 34,972 and the figures are expected to increase due to social and political changes in the region. Although Turkey is an important destination and transit country for migration and asylum, the infrastructure and legislation for providing support and protection for asylum-seekers and refugees in Turkey is very limited. Turkey has not joint to all the international agreements, refugee status is not provided to asylum-seekers coming from non-European countries and the applicants for asylum are expected to reside so called satellite cities. Limited number for resettlement results in an increasing number of asylum applicants waiting for long years without reasonable protection and support mechanisms, which are defined in the international human rights documents. The legislation for asylum and refugee protection is also rudimentary in Turkey: access to social and health services and basic human rights for asylum-seekers and refugees is very limited.
Turkey has become a destination country for refugees of transitional democracies, who are in search of better living conditions and job opportunities abroad. Former Soviet Union countries are among the main countries of origin. Refugees from these countries may enter Turkey by a visa obtained at the border and may stay in Turkey for up to one month. Mostly, they come to Turkey in search of job opportunities, which are generally available for them only illegaly.
While their presence in Turkey is generally voluntary, their illegal work and resident status, nevertheless, make them subject of exploitation and human rights violations. Some of them obtain legal residency through arranged marriages. Some end up in small workshops, in the tourism and entertainment sectors, or in private households, working illegally without job security, insurance or administrative and judicial safeguards. Male workers are usually employed in the construction sector and females in domestic services.
In parallel to this circular migration, Turkey is a destination for human trafficking in the Black Sea region, with victims mainly coming from former Soviet Union countries.