The second session of Bosphorus Migration Studies’ Spring Seminars took place on May 8, 2017 at Bogazici University. The participants were

– Engin Gül, Executive Director, BMS Turkey,

– Unal Koyuncu, Executive Director, Foundation for Migration Studies (GAV),

– Öykü Tümer, Representative, Refugee Rights Turkey,

– Eleni Diker, Researcher, MiReKoç.

They emphasized the importance of coordination with state institutions is of great importance when it comes to the fact that the initiative of civil society in Turkey, which is one of the countries most affected by the migration crisis, may be a model for Europe.

Engin Gül, who spoke at the opening speech of the program, recalled the presentations of Selin Ünal, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the academician Başak Yavçan, and added: “40% of Syrians in our country cannot reach education. The socialization and adaptation projects cannot solve the problems of young people We need a new perspective We have to work harder and I think that the dialogue between civil society and decision-makers should be supported. We regard this goal as the primary agenda item as Bosphorus Migration Studies. Today we welcome representatives from three different institutions approaching the topic from various ways, hopefully contributing to the goals of dialogue and awareness. “


Öykü Tümer
Just before starting, Oyku tells her works to the BMS directors


“The Role of Civil Society Is Transforming”

The representative of Refugee Rights Turkey, Öykü Tümer, emphasized that the working areas and targets of the NGOs changed after the 2000s: “We are an NGO whose history dates back to 2003. It was initiated in 2003 as Istanbul Refugee Legal Assistance Program. In 2005, we became a program under Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. In 2015, Helsinki Refugee Support Program became Refugee Rights Turkey, a separate association.” Tümer explained RRT’s workplace, its services, and its mission as follows: “We are an independent NGO that provides legal information and assistance services to refugees and advocates for the rights of refugees in Turkey. There are also other NGOs and civil society actors that provide psycho-social support, primary health care services, various courses or vocational training to refugees.”


Öykü Tümer Eleni Diker Ünal Koyuncu
Oyku Tumer, Refugee Rights Turkey / Mülteci Hakları Merkezi


Support in Application and Appeal Processes

“We assist refugees regarding the complex asylum procedures including access to legal representation and appeal procedures.”

– “Turkey used to be only a transit country. Although Turkey is still a transit country, now Turkey hosts over 3 million refugees and asylum seekers, not only from Syria but from other countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

– “Turkey is also building its capacity of migration management. For instance, Turkey is planning to increase its capacity for immigration detention. It is estimated that by the end of 2017, up to 15.000 individuals can be detained in these immigration detention facilities. These are individuals who are apprehended while entering or leave Turkey irregularly. But there are also individuals readmitted from other countries. For instance, over 1.000 individuals are readmitted to Turkey from Greek Islands under EU-Turkey Statement.”

– “As an NGO, we will continue to extend our support to refugees in Turkey. However, as an NGO we do not have the necessary resource to assist all refugees. That is why we also organize seminars and training for lawyers, especially in provinces hosting large numbers of refugees.”


Engin Gul replied audiences’ questions about BMS


Another civil society representative, Unal Koyuncu, who spoke at the meeting underlined that Turkey was not far away from immigration and asylum after thanking the Bosphorus Migration Studies team and participant who organized Spring Seminars from Migration Research Foundation. Koyuncu, the representative of an Ankara-based foundation, Foundation for Migration Studies, reminded the guest-worker immigration to Germany and its effects that reach today, saying: “Germany has an intensive immigration process. We are talking about 6 million people Even if we include those returning to Turkey, we are faced with even more numbers. We are talking about a sociological segment that deals with millions of people. From education to working life; Family to motherland relationship; Political participation, integration, and the issues that concern these segments. There is also a problem in the context of Turkey: There is a blue card issue. There are divorce matters.”


Ünal Koyuncu
Unal Koyuncu, Foundation for Migration Studies, Ankara

The Media and the Diaspora 

“How are the politics of Turkey compared to Disapora politics? One of the most important opportunities of Turkey in terms of sociological, economic and media is the citizens living abroad. These people are understood as a possibility that is lost. What does the foreign citizen question mean as a crisis? What does it mean to us first? First of all, there is a constitutional responsibility point. Article 62 of the Constitution clearly states that the state should take the necessary precautions for citizens living abroad. How can a sociological reality create a crisis? The Dutch case is extremely important because of how relevant it is to a serious crisis. There is also this problem with Germany.”


“Europe is in a New Transformation Age with Immigrants”

The director of the Foundation for Migration Research added that the debate shaped around immigrants in Europe could be the cause of a greater change than anticipated: “In Europe, the crisis is with symbolic power and psychological and democratic power. Europe is experiencing a new transformation with immigrants. We see the rise of far-right. When we look at the meaning of European values, we see that ambivalent laws are applied. If you look at Muslims, you will either have the same rights as the church, or there will be a two-faced problem with immigrants there. There is a tension process. Turkey is in this business. Funds were established for the first time when the presidential election was held in 2011 and this means that the political parties in Turkey are getting more of the Turkish origin abroad and occupying more public space. When you look at NGOs and universities and media other than politics, how much do you think a diaspora of 6 million is represented? “


Yasemin Yıldız Engin Gül Ünal Koyuncu Eleni Diker Öykü Tümer
Participants emphasis upon the dialogue between institutions and NGOs


“We Need Knowledge to Prevent Crises”

Bearing in mind that the Foundation for Migration Studies aims to raise awareness on migration, Koyuncu concluded his speech as follows: “The issues that concern immigrants need to be particularly focused. The largest number of Turkish population living in the northern province of Germany will be here. What are the immigration policies in this province? What are the approaches to this issue? Reports on basic needs related to this field are published, and even cooperation and communication are made if workshops are made with academics. This attitude will lay the groundwork for knowledge accumulation. There is a need for a knowledge level to prevent the crisis.”



The last speaker of the program was Koç University Migration Research Center / MiReKoc’s Eleni Diker. She, in this context, noted that graduate and doctoral programs have been started in Koc University since 2004 and researches continue: “We are trying to increase the sensitivity of migration through international conferences and Wednesday seminars with TÜBİTAK and EU projects. We are trying to increase the dialogue between the government and the NGOs. We have a 10-day summer school each year. “


Eleni Diker Engin Gül
Eleni Diker, Koc University Migration Research Center, Istanbul


Forced Migration Resource Center: A unique opportunity for researchers

“Forced migration resources are actually a database and all reports from Turkey are available here. There are 1300 sources, mostly from Turkey. 470 of them form NGO reports. We can talk about the academy as a complete embarrassment. The serious role of NGOs in reporting has resulted in a wide range of infollution that has produced different negative consequences. Funds and capacity inadequacies have unfortunately interfered with each other, and the same work has been repeated. The forced migration aimed to coordinate these resources. UN, AP and AFAD reports were also collected. Reliable sources against the infollution in the media are also added here. “


After the question and answer session, the program ended with thanks to listeners and collective photo shoot. Bosphorus Migration Studies is continuing preparations for a Migration Academy that will start in July following the Spring Seminars. Each week the 8-week academy will come together with researchers and NGO staff interested in the subject. The program to be concluded in September will be given a certificate of attendance.