Based on projections, there are about 3.3 million Turkish nationals living outside the country, of whom approximately 2.7 million are in European countries (see figure). This is a considerable increase from 770 000 in the mid 1970s.
There are also some 100 000 Turkish workers in Arab countries,
60 000 immigrants in Australia, and over 75 000 workers in the CIS countries (see figure). Furthermore, there are more than a quarter of a million Turkish migrants in Canada and the United States. Based on the figures provided by the OECD and Eurostat, there are also roughly 800 000 Turkish nationals who acquired the citizenship of their host countries between 1991 and 2005.
Today, Turks are the largest immigrant community in Europe. As such, they are becoming an easy target for anti-immigrant feelings and xenophobia. Many people fear the influx of additional immigrants from Turkey if the country becomes a member of the EU. This anxiety within the EU is exacerbated by the social and cultural problems that Turkish immigrants confront while integrating into their host societies. A large percentage of second and third-generation Turkish immigrants perform badly, particularly in the areas of education and employment. Yet, as stated earlier, there is an expanding Turkish immigrant civil society in Europe that addresses the integration problems of the Turkish communities in major European countries.
On the other hand, there are econometric studies suggesting that the number of Turkish citizens who would actually migrate to EU countries if Turkey became a member and full freedom of movement was allowed is much less than the general public fears.
The possibility of an influx of Turkish migrants into the EU is not the sole problem that the members of the Union are concerned about. There is an ongoing debate among experts regarding the irregular migration flows between Turkey and neighboring states such as Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Iraq. Turkey's current migration regime concerning these countries is considered very liberal, and there is continuous pressure from the EU to tighten it. However, there are no changes on the horizon, due to the political unwillingness of Turkish authorities. Given the political and economic problems within these countries, their migration potential is likely to remain strong in the near future, which could lead to conflict between Turkey and the EU.
Still, in order to respond to the fears of the EU, Turkey has embarked on the large-scale project of establishing a migration-management regime. However, Turkey is doing the right things for the wrong reasons. In general, the migration agenda in Turkey is set by its EU counterparts, but it is problematic to link migration-related issues with EU accession negotiations, as this overshadows the fact that these issues are imperative in their own right, and need to be treated as such. A deceleration in the negotiations has also delayed migration policymaking in Turkey. Given that Turkey is a very important actor in migratory movements within its region, it requires an adequate migration management-regime for its own sake, not for the sake of the EU.
As stated earlier, the relationship between the recently arrived "ethnically non-Turkish" migrants and the host community is very limited, and Turkey's role as a country of immigration and transit has not yet become a public issue. Debates regarding migration still revolve around the themes of border control and security, while integration policies are not being addressed on the state level. Unless Turkey accepts its role as a country of immigration and transit and tackles the issue of integration, it could face serious internal problems in the future. This is another example of why the development of a migration-management regime is in Turkey's best interest, not just the EU's.