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Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey has historically been a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants. Recent regional conflicts and crises have contributed to Turkey increasingly becoming both a major destination and transit country for those fleeing conflict, poverty, and disasters.
The start of the Syria Crisis in 2012 and in 2015 Mediterranean Crisis contributed to a significant number of migrants and refugees traveling to/through and from Turkey. In the last fifteen years, regular migration flows increased more than three-fold, from just under 11 million regular border crossings registered in 2000, to more than 49.4 million in 2016. Since the start of the Syria Crisis, irregular arrivals to Greece from Turkey increased significantly, from 34,000 in 2012 and peaking in 2015 to nearly 850,000. In 2016, irregular crossings to Greece dropped once again following the April 2016 implementation of the EU-Turkey deal but remained significant with 173,000 new arrivals reported in 2016.
The number of migrants choosing Turkey as a destination country has also increased significantly in recent years. Over 3.5 million migrants and refugees were living in Turkey in March 2017. The vast majority (over 3.1 million) are people seeking international protection. Over 2.85 million Syrians have registered for temporary protection in Turkey. Approximately another half million migrants have come to study, work or other reasons including family reunification.
The number and the diversity of the migrants and refugees have increased Turkey’s challenges for effective migration management strategies, humanitarian assistance and migrant protection. In Turkey, governments, international organizations, and humanitarian organizations are working together to develop comprehensive policies and actions to sustainably manage migration.
As the UN Migration Agency, IOM provides support and assistance to the Turkish Government for an effective, comprehensive and human-rights based migration management system.
IOM opened its first offices in Turkey in 1991, following the aftermath of the first Gulf War. The Mission’s activities began with resettlement for Iraqi refugees, and were later expanded to migration management programmes. IOM’s partnership with the Republic of Turkey was formalized in November 2004 when Turkey was granted member status to IOM. The partnership between IOM and Turkey continued since then, including support drafting the Law of Foreigners and International Protection, as well as establishing the Ministry of Interior’s Directorate General for Migration Management in 2013.
Following the devastating earthquake in Van in 2011, IOM Turkey began our emergency response programmes which have since expanded in response to ongoing regional conflicts and crises, notably the 2012 Syrian Crisis and the 2015 Mediterranean Crisis.
With over 25 years operational experience in Turkey, the Mission is now one of the largest globally with nearly 350 staff in 15 different locations across the country, with the main office in Ankara, and sub-offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep.