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Lamis Abdelaaty paper on Turkey's refugee policy published in Journal of Refugee Studies

Nov 15, 2019

Refugees and Guesthood in Turkey

Lamis Abdelaaty

Journal of Refugee Studies, November 2019

Lamis Abdelaaty

Lamis Abdelaaty


Even as Turkey took in over 3 million Syrians at great expense, Turkish officials were referring to these individuals as guests rather than refugees. Despite significant legal developments in the country, and particularly the formalization of a temporary-protection regime, this choice of labels reveals the influence of underlying political trends on Turkish policymaking regarding refugees.

This article compares Turkey’s reactions to the Syrian inflow with its responses to previous refugee groups, including Iraqis in 1988, Bosnians in 1992, Kosovars in 1998 and Chechens starting 1999. In so doing, it demonstrates that the refusal to designate certain populations as asylum seekers or refugees enables Turkey to opt in or out of what might otherwise appear to be generally applicable, national-level policies. Through these strategic semantics, policymakers retain a freedom to manoeuvre in response to international and domestic political incentives.

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