20.4.2012 | Von:
Vera Hanewinkel

Prerequisites for Immigration and Integration in Turkey

The immigration of highly qualified people of Turkish descent is made legally possible mainly by the option available to former Turkish citizens or their descendants of applying for a so-called Mavi Kart (blue card). This grants them extensive rights, such as the right to reside in Turkey and to practice a profession or the right to purchase real estate, without the restrictions that apply to foreigners. Holders of the Mavi Kart are thus as far as possible on an equal footing with Turkish citizens. Restrictions exist solely with respect to the right to vote and the right to hold public office. These rights are exclusively reserved for Turkish citizens. [1] The Mavi Kart and German citizenship facilitate a transnational lifestyle, because they enable unrestricted commuting between Germany and Turkey.
Menschen beim Betreten und Verlassen einer Strassenunterführung im Istanbuler Stadtteil Eminönü nahe der Galata-Brücke, aufgenommen am 26.11.2011.Passers-by on a street in Istanbul. (© picture alliance/dpa-Zentralbild )

The Mavi Kart regulations facilitate (structural [2]) integration in Turkey but they by no means guarantee it. Thus, for example, the recognition of certain qualifications acquired abroad is not guaranteed. The recognition of such qualifications is the responsibility of the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK = Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu), which makes the recognition of educational degrees which were not obtained at a Turkish university subject to certain conditions and can, for example, demand a post qualification in the form of a compensatory program of study at a Turkish university or the passing of an equivalency examination. Highly qualified people of Turkish origin with a diploma from a German university are thus basically subjected to the same risk of having their educational qualifications rejected as immigrants who are not of Turkish origin. Findings from migration research point to the fact that the non-recognition of qualifications obtained in the home country results in highly qualified individuals in the country of immigration frequently landing in non-skilled employment situations. [3] The recognition of institutional "cultural capital" (Bourdieu) that has been obtained is thus a critical aspect of migration upon which subsequent integration processes depend, since they determine the possibilities of placement in the labor market of the target country. Highly qualified people of Turkish descent develop strategies for avoiding the devaluation of the educational qualifications they obtained in Germany and for positioning themselves successfully in the Turkish labor market. The majority of the twelve highly qualified female (re)migrants interviewed by Hanewinkel practice professions in which they can put especially their knowledge of German to full advantage. They work in German cultural and educational institutions in Istanbul, such as the Goethe Institute and the German School, are employed in the Turkish branch of a German firm, or work in close contact with such entities. Here they can successfully contribute their German university degrees, their knowledge of the German and the Turkish language as well as their socialization in two "cultures." At the same time, they indicate that in the German firms they also encounter the "German attitude to work." Compared with this, especially settling into a Turkish firm is often not easy. The adaptation to new work flows and operating procedures demands time and energy. There are complaints about the strongly developed hierarchies as well as about the competitive thinking among female and male colleagues. The interviewees of Aydın/Pusch (2011) and Hanewinkel (2010) also miss (stereotypical) "German virtues" such as punctuality, order, and well-defined structures. Some of the interviewees feel like strangers in Turkey. Frequently they come to experience that they are not, as indicated in numerous media reports [4], welcomed with open arms. [5] The salaries, spheres of activity or the working hours often do not meet the interviewees’ expectations. Idealized images of Turkey from childhood and youth do not hold up to reality. Migrants from Germany of Turkish origin are named almancılar (Deutschländer) in Turkey, a term that has a rather negative connotation and suggests prejudice. [6]

All of these factors can mean that the stay in Turkey is only temporary and that a return to Germany or migration to another country occurs. It has already been suggested here that in the case of emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish origin from Germany we are not necessarily dealing with a brain drain – as the media reporting has repeatedly suggested. [7] Rather, the general willingness to return or the actually completed return to Germany points to the phenomenon of brain circulation. The fact too that many of the emigrants work in German firms or organizations in Turkey suggests that they continue to be available to the German economy. Generally it is striking that the emigrants continue to cultivate active contact with Germany – through friendship networks, regular family visits, through their job, or also through German-Turkish exchange platforms such as the "regulars’ table (Stammtisch) of returnees" in Istanbul. Once a month this meeting brings together (highly qualified) emigrants of Turkish descent from Germany, who all share the experience of having spent a good part of their lives in Germany.

This text is part of the policy brief on "The Emigration of Highly Qualified German Citizens of Turkish Descent to Turkey".


German Embassy Ankara: http://www.ankara.diplo.de (accessed: 2-1-2012).
Structural integration is understood here to mean placement in the labor market.
Cf. Nohl et al. (2006).
Cf. for example Gottschlich (2010), Jacobsen (2009), Steinvorth (2010).
Aydın/Pusch (2011, p. 34).
Experiences of foreignness and the lack of belonging find expression in the saying: Almanya'da yabancı, Türkiye'de almancı = In Germany a foreigner, in Turkey a Deutschländer (German-like).
Cf. for example Goessmann (2008), Wierth (2009).
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