20.4.2012 | Von:
Vera Hanewinkel

Last but not least: Emigration or Return?

In the case of the migration of highly qualified people of Turkish origin, are we dealing with emigration or with a "return" to Turkey?

Because the interviewees in the various studies belong to the second generation of Turkish immigrants, i.e., were born in Germany or have spent the greater part of their lives there after their immigration in childhood, it is not possible in the strict sense to speak of a return to the country of origin. The migration of this group is thus largely to be assigned to the category of the "emigration" of highly qualified German citizens.[1]

The subjective view of things held by the interviewees may, however, deviate completely from such a categorization. While the interviewees in Pusch’s/Aydın’s study (2011) regard their migration to Turkey entirely as emigration and only understand the relocation of the center of their lives back to Germany to be a "return," another picture altogether emerges in the study by Ηanewinkel (2010). The majority of the highly qualified women interviewees of Turkish origin in this study consider themselves to be "returnees." The author sees an explanation for this (rhetorical) self-image first in the adoption of this term in line with the self-definition "regulars’ table of returnees" in Istanbul. In addition, the term serves to highlight the emotional-native soil bond with the country of origin of one’s parents, to which contact has always been maintained through vacations and networks of relationships with one’s relatives. Turkey is seen as one’s (second?!) home country. [2] And one does not emigrate to one’s home country. One returns to it.

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


In 2005 the largest number of German emigrants was recorded since 1954. For the first since the 1960s, more German citizens left the country than there were people immigrating to Germany from abroad during the same period. In 2008, the net migration loss, even when taking into consideration the influx of Spätaussiedler [people of German origin emigrating from Eastern Europe after 1980], stood at 66,428 people with a German passport (Ette/Sauer 2010 b, p. 11; BAMF 2010, p. 170).
Sievers et al. (2010, p. 100) also note a multiple localization of the "transmigrants" interviewed by them. The participants in their study also speak of "returning" to Turkey. On the concept and construction of the term Heimat among people of Turkish origin of the first to third generation, see also Bozkurt (2009).
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