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A Libertarian Perspective on The Immigration Landscape in Turkey

Doğaç Yildiz

Turkey, straddling the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has historically been a melting pot of cultures and civilizations. In recent years, Turkey has become a destination for various types of migrants, including labor migrants, conflict-fleeing refugees, and asylum seekers. The Syrian conflict, in particular, has led to a substantial influx of refugees, making Turkey home to the largest refugee population globally. The country hosts more than 3.6 million registered refugees of the Syrian Civil War. The sheer scale of the refugee crisis places immense pressure on its resources, infrastructure, and social services. Issues related to housing, education, and healthcare are exacerbated as the influx of refugees continues.


Turkey has implemented various policies to address the complexities of immigration. These include temporary protection measures for Syrian refugees, work permit regulations, and efforts to enhance social cohesion. However, language barriers, cultural differences, and economic disparities often hinder a smooth assimilation of newcomers. This creates social tensions and can lead to misunderstandings between the host population and immigrants. Initiatives promoting education, language acquisition, and cultural exchange can foster a sense of belonging among immigrants. PIKTES (Project on Promoting Integration of Syrian Kids into the Turkish Education System) is an EU-funded project implemented by Turkey’s MoNE (Ministry of National Education). The project’s overall objective is to increase the enrollment and attendance rates of the Syrian children and youth in quality formal education. 750,350 Syrian children were schooled during the 2020-2021 academic year and 386,530 students received Turkish language training.


Additionally, a society enriched by various perspectives, traditions, and ideas can thrive, fostering an environment conducive to innovation and progress. The focus should shift from enforcing cultural homogeneity to promoting cultural liberty. Individuals should be free to practice their customs and traditions without fear of state interference, fostering a diverse yet harmonious society. In Turkey, an influx of skilled and unskilled labor contributes to various sectors, boosting productivity and innovation. Syrian owned businesses have advantages such as utilizing multiple languages, international networks and export capacity. In 2019, the trade minister stated that there were approximately 14,000 Syrian-owned businesses in the country, which accounted for almost 30% of all foreign-owned businesses. It is estimated that since 2011, over $10 billion in Syrian investment has flowed into Turkey.


Nevertheless, it is essential to consider the potential burden on public resources and services as well. Emphasizing the need for policies that encourage self-reliance and limited government intervention is crucial. The strain on public services, such as healthcare and education, can create disparities and limit access for both immigrants and locals. Even the mayor of New York City (GDP $2.1 trillion vs Turkey’s $900 billion) for example, had to declare a state of emergency in response to their refugee problem, which costs the metropolis roughly $1 billion a year. However, this number is dwarfed by the costs resulting from immigrants in Turkey, amounting to $11 billion annually. In total, more than $100 billion have already been spent since the Syrian war. The government says that it will continue the spending. It provides child support to the immigrants after the third child, food aid, medicine, health care and education. Private sector solutions like private education and healthcare, though, could emerge to address these challenges without the need for excessive government intervention. The market's adaptability is key to addressing any issues that may arise.


Furthermore, the right to movement and choice of residence is a basic human right. Any restrictions on immigration should be minimal, respecting the autonomy of individuals to seek better opportunities or refuge. Instead of relying solely on government assistance, a libertarian approach would be to encourage private organizations, communities, and individuals to contribute to refugee support efforts. This decentralized model can be more efficient and responsive to the specific needs of those affected. This could involve private enterprises assessing labor demands and facilitating the entry of individuals with the right skillset (instead of the government doing so through work permit rules). A streamlined and efficient immigration system, based on market demands and individual merit, could help mitigate issues related to illegal immigration and ensure that those entering the country contribute positively to the economy. Furthermore, balancing openness to immigration with security measures is crucial to address potential threats. Striking this balance requires a nuanced approach, ensuring that security concerns do not overshadow the principles of liberty. Immigration law enforcement agencies face challenges, leading to issues such as undocumented migration and human trafficking.


By fostering inclusivity, understanding, and just policies, Turkey has the potential to leverage its rich history of diversity to build a more vibrant and resilient future for all its residents, both old and new. While challenges exist, the principles of the free market and individual liberty provide a robust framework for managing immigration. It should interfere minimally in the immigration process and only when its citizens’ security is at risk. A nuanced approach that balances economic opportunities, individual rights, and market adaptability can guide policies in the complex landscape of immigration.

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