IR & Politics

Turkey’s administrative institutions engaged in migration and its migration data creation methods

Migration movements, which have been encountered in almost every period of history, have intensified in the last century and have started to create some problems in terms of both emigration and receiving countries. On the other hand, the migration management policies of both the state and global organisations started relatively late. Today, there is still a large and significant portion of the deaths and more irregular migrants, which lead to some strict attitudes in this field. On the other hand, the rights of people who have taken refuge in other countries due to war and conflict have been guaranteed by some legal texts both nationally and globally.

Historically the migration phenomenon, Turkey has also long been affected directly or indirectly. The immigration movements, which were used consciously in order to serve the construction and institutionalisation of the nation-state at the beginning of the Republic, have taken a new shape in the last 30 years. During this period, Turkey, in particular, have been exposed to Asian and African migration as one of the irregular migration route who want to move to other European countries, on the other hand, in the last 4-5 years has tried to deal with asylum seekers and refugees due to intense civil war that occurred in the southern border of Syria and Iraq. Therefore, about 4 million people dispersed to various cities in Turkey constitutes an additional burden on the central government and local government services. Despite the end of the wave of refugees, Turkey is still a case of escape and country of asylum for refugees. Therefore, it is too essential to collect and analyse the latest migration trends in Turkey. On the other hand, as a country that is hosting approximately 4 million refugees, it is also crucial to examine Turkey’s migration data and statistics creation methods. General Directorate of Migration Management affiliated to the Ministry of Interior of Turkey that conducts the most work in the collection and creation of these migration data and statistics.

In addition to theoretical difficulties, migration is also an issue with data limitations. Today, international migration data collected and published, especially in developing countries, are minimal compared to data on global trade flows or investment flows (Santo Tomas, et al., 2009). This is also the case for Turkey. Also, in Turkey, more than one institution is responsible for data collection, and that makes it challenging to access statistics.

The studies conducted in the field of international migration due to resource limitations and lack of data in Turkey, more often not go beyond theoretical discussions and speculative propositions. Therefore, before analysing data creation methods of international migration in Turkey, it should be discussed in detail the missing data in this area, and there is a need to improve the existing data collection system. This paper discusses the causes of the lack of data on international migration by offering the current data collection system in Turkey, what to improve international migration data system in Turkey will be discussed as can be done and analysing migration data and statistics creation methods.


Government agencies responsible for data collection and data collection system in Turkey will be evaluated. Record-keeping activities of different institutions in Turkey and including the evaluation of the data collection carried out by these institutions will consist of two subdivisions.

Institutions responsible for data collection

The institutions responsible for the collection of data on international migration in Turkey respectively; Turkey Statistical Institute (TurkStat)[1], the Ministry of Foreign Affairs[2], General Directorate of Security[3], General Directorate of Migration Management[4] And Turkish Coast Guard Command under the Ministry of Interior. Institutions other than TurkStat collect flow data on international migration for administrative purposes. Compilation of the data, which is the task of TurkStat, emerges as a phenomenon depending on the size and quality of inter-institutional cooperation. Data collection and recording systems of each institution are explained in detail below.

Ministry of Interior

As a general, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior or its sub-units to collect data on international migration, cooperation between institutions and to disseminate such data to the relevant institutions.

Border Gates Department under General Directorate of Security

Border Gates Department[5] issuing all kinds of foreign visa, residence with the purpose of work, travel, scientific research and study, with excavation and education, responsible for the implementation of the principles to be applied to the diplomatic mission members and members of the consular, foreigners residing in stateless status in Turkey, opening, closing, controlling and improving border gates, border areas within the framework of the provisions of resolution, implementation of the requirements of the treaties and protocols signed with countries, legal or illegal means from various countries the conclusion of the asylum requests of the foreigners who came to country and demanded asylum, the completion of the immigration requests of the Turkish nobles or Turkish culture who want to go to Turkey as an immigrant, the investigation of the immigration of foreigners to the citizenship, takes necessary measures to eliminate the problems and deficiencies[6].

Information on asylum applications and migrants is held in the Border Asylum Department for Foreigners. This section is the only institution that holds residence permits, asylum statistics and illegal immigration information in the POLNET (Police Information Network)[7] database launched in 2000.

Directorate General of Migration Management

Turkey has undergone an enormous refugee flow. Like the examples in the world, an institutional structuring which improves and implements strategies and current policies towards the area of responsibility; which is human rights-oriented, equipped with qualified staff and a robust infrastructure was required in terms of effective management of issues in the field of migration.

Therefore, Turkey has put new regulations into force with the purpose of determining and implementing more effective policies on migration. In this context, a new Law on Foreigners and International Protection was adopted by the parliament in 2013, and this law officially declares the foundation of the General Directorate of Migration Management. It is the first law of its kind in Turkey. The vision of the General Directorate of Migration Management is that establish and implement an effective migration management system, to make a contribution to the development of migration policies at the international level and the implementation thereof.

Directorate General of Migration Management consists of Central, Provincial and International Organisations. The following units are located in the Head Office of the General Directorate:

  • Department of Foreigners, responsible for regular and irregular migration-related transactions and operations,
  • International Protection Department responsible for international protection and temporary protection
  • Department of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, responsible for the actions and operations related to the fight against human trafficking and protection of victims,

Migration Policy and Projects Department responsible for works and procedures associated with the determination of policies and strategies in the field of migration,

  • Compliance and Communication Department, which is responsible for the works and transactions related to the compliance of foreigners with society,
  • External Relations Department, which is in charge of communication, cooperation and coordination with states and international organisations related to the field of duty of the Directorate General,
  • Strategy Development Department, which is responsible for business development and financial services,
  • Legal Counsel responsible for the execution of legal services,
  • Information Technologies Management, which is responsible for the establishment, operation and operation of information systems related to the subjects within the scope of the General Directorate,
  • Human Resources Department responsible for manpower policy and planning of the General Directorate and the development of human resources system,
  • Department of Support Services, responsible for the operations and transactions related to the movable and immovables of the General Directorate, general documents and archival activities, applications for obtaining information,
  • Education Department is responsible for the activities and operations related to the training activities related to the duty of the General Directorate.

The Directorate is responsible for the implementation of public policy in this field, the establishment of collaborations, the conduct of business and operations, and 81 provinces, 148 districts and abroad are organised for these purposes.[8] As of May 18, 2015, the General Directorate completed its structure in the provinces and took over the duties from the General Directorate of Security in all provinces.

The Directorate-General for Migration Management publishes data on international migration publicly on its official website, but sometimes the data is uploaded too late, and annual reports have not yet been updated in the last two years. This situation does not allow the relevant institutions to reach the data in a timely manner and to conduct a situation analysis.

Turkish Statistical Institute

Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) in the field of international migration stock (and limited flow) publishes data from Census and since 2007 by compiling the Address Based Population Registration System. Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS), was created using the place of residence of Turkish and foreign citizens living in Turkey. These addresses were then matched with the identification numbers of Turkish citizens in the Central Population Administration System (MERNIS) database at the General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs, and passport numbers were used for foreigners.

The last Census carried out by TurkStat was the 14th Census in 2000. In this Census, the respondents were asked where they lived five years ago. This information gives a rough estimate of the incoming migration for a period of five years. As migration statistics, TurkStat also publishes population statistics by nationality, place of birth and gender.

Directorate General of Customs under the Ministry of Trade

All Turkish citizens and foreigners are subject to registration when crossing the border. The passport of the traveller and the information of the person in the database of the Undersecretariat of Customs shall be noted. As a result, the only statistics provided by the boundary data are simple entry-exit numbers. This type of data cannot be used for reliable internal and international migration estimates for one year or more. The change in entry-exit can be used to indicate the change of border control applications or statistical applications in this field, not to indicate changes in migration flows.

Conclusion: Evaluation of International Migration Data System in Turkey

As mentioned in the previous section, TurkStat is the institution responsible for the compilation and publication of data in the field of international migration. The three statistical formats can be distinguished:

  • Statistics which are only the responsibility of TurkStat (Censuses),
  • Statistics published by TurkStat but provided by other government agencies,
  • Statistics published directly by other institutions from joint work with TurkStat.

As shown by the first group, TurkStat has no or only limited responsibility to compile data from censuses and other sources. Other data come from records other than research and censuses and provide information about flows. As Perrin and Poulain (Perrin & Poulain , 2008) point out, data in the field of migration can be grouped into two main groups: governmental data and pure statistical data. Governmental data sources include population registrations, residence permit registrations, visa databases, consular registrations, asylum-related databases and are held for administrative purposes. In Turkey, every institution except the TurkStat data on keeping it that way. However, surveys and counts are conducted for statistical purposes only, and this type of data is more useful in the sense of research. Data in this second structure basically measure migration stocks. It is also possible to measure flows with counts and surveys, but it involves asking complex questions retrospectively.

As Price (Price, 1965) argues, it is the country’s main interests that are effective in changing or eliminating the country’s record of immigration rather than pure statistics. As a result, statistical collection of migration data emerges as a by-product of administrative data collection systems. More than one institution in Turkey to keep a record of the same migratory phenomenon, which leads to duplication of records.

On the other hand, compared with other developing countries on international migration system data, Turkey’s situation does not seem too bad. According to Parker (Parker, 2005), states collect data for their own national legislation, policies and administrative obligations. They are therefore not interested in adopting a standard or universally defined terminology list. Moreover, it is expected that interest will continue to dominate data and uses.

In order to be able to analyse the foreigners in the country correctly and to plan the services to be provided to these people and to control the threats to the security of the country, the data quality of the foreigners must be increased and records should be kept in a way to contain all necessary information (Age, gender, nationality, marital status, number of children, individuals with dependents, disability status, educational status, which take part in vulnerable groups, the reason it is placed, full address in Turkey, etc.).

In addition to the accurate collection of such information, it is extremely important that the Directorate General of Migration Management takes necessary measures to ensure that all the required data is shared with the relevant institutions in the fastest way in order to provide services to the immigrants and to carry out the necessary procedures.

The results show that, as in many developing countries, the collection of data in the field of international migration for administrative purposes rather than for academic reasons is the main reason for not having an integrated data system.


Canbay, T., 2015. Public services for asylum seekers in Turkey within the perspective of new migratory movements. London, Transnational Press London, pp. 4-6.

European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, 2018. Turkey Refugee Crisis – June 2018. [Online]
Available at:

Fact Checking Turkey, 2016. Which country hosts largest refugee population around world? A fact-check of Al Jazeera. [Çevrimiçi]
Available at:

Ihlamur, S. G., 2014. Turkey’s Policy İntended Syrian Refugees. Ortadoğu Analiz, April, 6(61), p. 45.

Parker, J., 2005. International migration data collection: A paper prepared for the policy analysis and research programme of the Global Commission on International Migration. [Online]
Available at:

Perrin, N. & Poulain , M., 2008. An assessment of the state systems for data collection, analysis and data sharing on migration and migration statistics in Ukraine. Kyiv, s.n., p. 15.

Price, C. A., 1965. Some Problems of International Migration Statistics: An Australian Case- Study. Population Studies, July, 19(1), pp. 17-27.

Santo Tomas, P. A., Summers, L. H. & Clemens, M., 2009. Migrants Count: Five Steps Toward Better Migration Data, s.l.: Commission on International Migration Data for Development Research and Policy.

Velieceoğlu, A. Y., 2014. Syrian Refugees İn Turkey, Mersin: Mersin University Monitoring and Research Center.

Watson, . G., 2019. EU asylum applications down to below migration crisis levels. [Çevrimiçi]
Available at:


[1] Turkish Statistical Institute website,;jsessionid=fdTMdw9RrY0m7BFQgJCnN2KfTn2Hn89NvkTTFk626QX1T6gmbDKq!1494265826

[2] Ministry of Foreign Affairs website,

[3] General Directorate of Security website,

[4] General Directorate of Migration Management website,

[5] Border Gates Department website,



[8] Republic of Turkey Ministry of Interior, General Directorate of Migration Management, Publication No: 4, DECEMBER 2013

To find out more stay tuned!

Erhan Aygün

Erhan Aygun is PhD candidate at National University of Public Service in Budapest. His main research fields concern on migration, public administration, security studies, international theories and political science. He studied international relations in his master at Pécs University and bachelor degree at Çağ University.
Back to top button