Silent support designing migration policies Turkey

“Silent support” for designing development-sensitive migration policies in Turkey

Marion Noack, Project manager, Migration​ and Development, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Vienna Austria.

The Sessiz Destek project, funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration of Switzerland (SEM), started in late 2014 with the aim of supporting DGMM to devise a development-sensitive and coherent migration policy, through strategy development on the one hand and capacity building on the other. In addition, ICMPD provided ad-hoc advisory support to DGMM based on the emerging needs of the young and dynamic institution which was only established in 2013. 

The short name of the project, Sessiz Destek, means “silent support” in Turkish. The idea was to have a backstopping project working in the background, supporting DGMM with from “behind-the-scenes” and without creating a heavy project structure. Nevertheless, due to DGMM’s commitment and ownership the project became more visible and dynamic than originally intended.​

In light of the overarching theme under the GFMD chairmanship of Bangladesh “Migration that Works for Sustainable Development for All: Towards a transformative migration agenda”, the project anchored a development-sensitive thinking in Turkey. A development approach on migration and displacement aims to enable migrants and displaced to develop their skills, takes into account the needs of the host population and to move from a sole humanitarian approach to comprehensive, long-term thinking. The needs, fears and potential misperceptions of Turkish communities should also be taken into account if policies want to serve the aim to create a harmonious Turkish society. In multi-stakeholder workshops, a number of strategic directions have been formulated that will help enhance “people to people contact” and create bridges between communities in Turkey.

In the discussions on global governance of migration and development, the third sub-theme of the ninth GFMD chairmanship, due weight was also given to the importance of migration governance at state level. In a similar vein, discussions in the project departed from the current situation and immediate needs of the refugee communities in Turkey and explored how existing institutions and processes related to migration could be enhanced to improve their effectiveness and collective action. As it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, policy papers and programming tools have been prepared to s​upport DGMM to take into account a long-term and integrated perspective when dealing with the most immediate and operational priorities. 

Over the past 50 years, Turkey experienced a rapid transition, developing from a net emigration to an immigration country and hence the need arose for better coordination and cooperation. The project has supported DGMM in strengthening its function as focal point for migration among the different public institutions as well as international and civil society organisations. This is key to enhancing policy and institutional coherence across all migration-related sectors as the cornerstones for responsible and sustainable migration governance. The project brought together many migration and development actors in Turkey including the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and development agencies, just to name a few. Now, DGMM has at hand a network of intellectuals, advisors and policy makers affiliated with different institutions from academia, civil society, international organisations and public institutions in Turkey and abroad. The project also greatly benefitted from the donor’s experience in applying a whole-of-government approach. Experts from both the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation shared their experience with the Turkish counterparts at several occasions.

The progress made clearly shows that creating links between migration and development is not only relevant for so-called “countries of origin or emigration”. It is equally needed for countries which are primarily “countries of destination or immigration” such as Turkey. The approach applied and DGMM’s experience is hence a good example for future international efforts to enhance a development perspective in migration policies in key countries.

The author would like to thank the donor and the project team at ICMPD and DGMM for the great cooperation and support.