German Retirement Tranquillity that the ‘Law on Foreigners and International Protection’ Cannot Protect
German Retirement Tranquility that the ‘Law on Foreigners and International Protection’ Cannot Protect
The phenomenon of Turkish-German migration generally evokes the ‘guest workers’ that went to Germany from Turkey from the 1960s on. Although this association is correct, it is also quite one-sided, since there have been a number of people coming from Germany to Turkey throughout the history. Even though Germans are the largest group of European Union nationals living in Turkey, their role in Turkey’s transformation towards a migration-receiving country is rather small. In fact, diversity of migrant groups who have headed towards Turkey especially since 1990s formed the current heterogenic migration-structure of Turkey. Shifting circumstances, such as the political conflicts in the Middle East, the collapse of the USSR, the Syrian crisis, the hardening up of the European Union’s migration conditions and the globalisation process, have been determining in these migrations. For this reason, the mosaic of migration in present day Turkey consists of different groups such as asylum seekers and refugees, unregistered migrant-workers, transit migrants, and registered migrants. Parallel to the EU harmonisation process and the migration flow towards the country, Turkey, willingly or not, had to adapt its migration legislation. In relation to this, a serious reform process has been entered into in the recent years and many fundamental legal amendments have been made. In this regard, the ‘Yabancılar ve Uluslararası Koruma Kanunu’ (Law on Foreigners and International Protection) (YUKK) (Law No. 6458), which has entered into force gradually from 11 April 2013 on, partakes of the most fundamental and inclusive amendment. The YUKK is interpreted to be a milestone in the Turkish history of migration for introducing a temporary official protection status for mass influx migrants and for making permanent residence permits possible for foreigners who have been residing in Turkey for many years. Yet, the YUKK does not produce positive results for all the foreign nationals residing in Turkey. Through the example of German pensioners who have settled in the Southern coast since the 1990s, this article demonstrates how the status of a migrant group that has been pleasing local social communities economically and has not been defined as a trouble by the governmental and civil authorities, has been worsened with the YUKK.
The phenomenon of Turkish-German migration generally evokes the ‘guest workers’ that went to Germany from Turkey from the 1960s on. Although this association is correct, it is also quite one-sided since the phenomenon of Turkish-German migration is much more complex. In fact, Turkish-German migration has a longer history and it has never been one-sided from Turkey to Germany. Throughout the history of migration, those went to Turkey from Germany have made up another aspect of this history. The German foreign nationals who are living in Turkey currently can be considered under a few different categories. Germans who have been residing in Turkey for generations, who are called the ‘Bosphorus Germans’ and are the descendants of Germans settled in the Ottoman Empire; German investors; representatives of international corporations; German nationals who are married to Turkish citizens; children from Turkish-German mixed marriages; German pensioners who have settled in the Southern coast; ‘German migrants in search of an alternative life style’ who generally wish to change their professional or family life; German students who come for short or long term education, and German nationals with Turkish origins.
Considering these different migrant groups, we are able to see that Turkey is not only an emigrant country. Even though Germans are the largest group of European Union citizens living in Turkey, their role in Turkey’s transformation towards a migration-receiving country is rather small. In fact, diversity of migrant groups who have headed towards Turkey especially since the 1990s has formed the current heterogeneous migration-structure of Turkey. Shifting circumstances, such as the political conflicts in the Middle East, the collapse of the USSR, the Syrian crisis, the hardening up of the European Union’s migration conditions and the globalisation process, have been determining in these migrations. For this reason, the mosaic of migration in present day Turkey consists of different groups such as asylum seekers and refugees, unregistered migrant-workers, transit migrants, and registered migrants.
Parallel to the EU harmonisation process and the migration flow towards the country, Turkey, willingly or not, had to adapt its migration legislation. In relation to this, a serious reform process has been entered into in the recent years and many fundamental legal amendments have been made. In this regard, the “Yabancılar ve Uluslararası Koruma Kanunu” (Law on Foreigners and International Protection) (YUKK) (Law No. 6458), which has entered into force gradually from 11 April 2013 on, partakes of the most fundamental and inclusive amendment. In fact, the law is once again reformulating the construction of a brand new civil Migration Management, an official status called “temporary protection” for mass influx asylum seekers, and the residence statuses of all the foreign nationals within the country.
Due to the Syrian crisis, in the last three-four years the migration problem in Turkey is addressed with a focus on the Syrians. In this regard, it is not surprising that the YUKK has been discussed mainly in the context of the Syrians. However, even though the problems arising out of the Syrian crisis are much greater, as mentioned above, the migration flow towards Turkey is more complicated and heterogenic. Therefore, the YUKK regulates the right to residence, which comprises a significant dimension of life in Turkey for migrants, foreigners, asylum-seekers and refugees, who all have very different life stories compared to each other. In general, we can interpret this law to be a milestone in the Turkish history of migration for introducing a temporary official protection status for mass influx migrants and for making permanent residence permits possible, under certain conditions, for foreigners residing in Turkey. Nevertheless, it is hard to consider the YUKK positive for all the foreign nationals who are residing in Turkey. Moreover, the law has seriously worsened the situation of some foreigners, which have never been considered to be a trouble, and on the contrary pleasing many communities economically. I want to touch upon the situation of the German pensioners who are residing in the Southern coast, which is not being discussed about much.
Migration of German Pensioners to Turkey
Retirement migration is a type of migration directly connected to tourism and has accelerated in the Mediterranean coasts especially since the 1990s. This situation is valid also for German retirement migration to Turkey’s Southern coasts. According to Martin Vetter, Germany’s Consul to Antalya, there are 30,000 German nationals living in the cities he is in charge of (Antalya, Isparta and Burdur), and he estimates nearly %90 of them to fall under the category of pensioners. Even though the number Consul Vetter provides is much higher than the official TÜİK (Turkish Statistical Institute) number, it is more realistic. According to 2014 TÜİK numbers, 80,015 German nationals are residing in Antalya ‘only.’ However, this number only takes into account the ones who are officially registered at the Address-Based Population Register.
In the academic fieldwork I conducted in Antalya-Alanya region within the framework of the Mercator-IPM project I have been carrying on, the German pensioners expressed that they paid their first visit to Turkey as tourists during their summer vacations. They decided to settle in Turkey thinking they would have a more comfortable life in Turkey after retirement compared to Germany with their pensioner budget. Furthermore, climate conditions are an important factor in making a decision to migrate. Indeed, many German pensioners I talked to claim that they are able to live almost without medication while talking about warm weather conditions benefiting their bone and joint conditions.
Upon deciding to continue their lives in Turkey, German pensioners, like pensioners coming from many other EU countries, bought property and moved their lives altogether to Turkey. Of course, while doing so, they did not come only with their personal belongings. They moved to the region together with their associations, magazines, rites, beers, pork sausages, cakes and traditions. In order to meet their needs more easily, pensioners coming from different EU countries prefer locations close to each other. In this way, Alanya, for instance, has become the ‘fortresses’ of the German pensioners.
What makes Alanya a notable example is not just the large population of elderly Germans settled in the town. Alanya has also been significant in terms of having a local community and municipality that embraces the presence of both ‘resident foreigners’ before and now the so-called ‘new Alanyans.’ In fact, the Council of Foreigners (the Council hereafter) was established in Alanya 11 years ago. As Abdullah Karaoğlu, the speaker of the Council, states, this Council was established within the structure of the municipality to deal with the problems of the new Alanyans and to make them comfortable in the town. The Council works on a voluntary basis and even though the Council does not have any authority to participate in decision-making processes, it has been able to solve many of the problems of the new Alanyans. Thus, according to Abdullah Karaoğlu, there is a desire towards building similar organisations in other regions hosting large populations of foreigners.
Another aspect of the Council which should be mentioned is that it was due to its humanist principles and goodwill that the Council could sustain itself both in the period of its foundation and beyond. However, as Karaoğlu also implies, the economic aspect of the migration of pensioners has also been significant in sustaining the Council. Indeed, Alanya’s economic life is based on the economic presence of the foreign residents and tourism. Quoting from Karaoğlu: “Today, it is not only the hotel owners, real estate agents or constructors who gain economic benefit of the presence of the foreigners but even a parsley farmer from a mountain village earns his/her life by selling parsley to the foreigners. Thus, even these parsley farmers ask for more foreigners to come and settle in Alanya so that they can sell more parsley.” According to some academic research, the welcoming attitude of the Alanyans towards foreigners is not shared by everyone. However, as it is quoted from Karaoğlu, the economic aspect of the German pensioners (and some others) taking up residence in the Southern coasts has grown significant; and consequently they are considered as an important group by local politics. This is why the Council is engaged in various activities for the “New Alanyans.” As the majority of the New Alanyans are German pensioners, the activities of the Council are not limited to ‘only’ consultation for daily-life arrangements or socio-cultural activities. These activities include post-mortem issues too. The first German cemetery built in Alanya is already full and the second was built and opened recently as the ‘Alanya Cemetery for Foreigners.’ These cemeteries mean more than a symbolic gesture for fulfilling the last wishes of elderly immigrants. The phrase of ‘Für immer in Alanya (In Alanya forever)’ in a tombstone corresponds to the welcoming wish of Alanya: ‘Welcome forever.’
Those the YUKK Cannot Protect
Although the expression of goodwill is there on tombstones, I discovered that it was not likely to come across either such expressions of ‘eternity’ or any impression that people themselves were being embraced during my fieldwork this summer in Alanya. On the contrary, German pensioners explicitly reiterated the feeling that they were not welcome anymore. The reason for that kind of feeling is the enactment of the YUKK. German pensioners claim that the Law deteriorated their life in Turkey and made it impossible in some cases. Being directly informed about their residential rights by the officials of the Migration Management in the advisory meetings organised by the Council and other NGOs did not go far in eliminating their bad feelings. Quite the contrary, most of the German pensioners stated that they were planning to sell their houses in Alanya and move back to Germany.
It is not sufficient to look at the Law in order to understand the problems that German (or any other EU nationals) pensioners have regarding the legal regulations. Currently, there are neither special residence permits towards pensioner migrants nor special conditions apply to pensioners. There are six types of residence permits in the new law: short term residence permit, family residence permit, student residence permit, long term residence permit (de facto permanent residence permit), humanitarian residence permit, and residence permit for the victims of human trafficking. All these permit types are naturally dependent upon some conditions. Besides, another provision of the Law stipulates that foreigners need a residence permit in order to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days. The rule of “90 in 180 days” can be seen as a regulation to bar “shuttle migration.” In practice, the implication of this rule is as follows: A person who stays for 90 days in Turkey without having a residence permit should stay abroad for 90 days before entering back into Turkey.
The conditions being applied to the residence permits of German pensioners are shaped by the YUKK provisions regulating short and long-term residence permit conditions and the rule of “90 in 180 days.” Although it is a new, expensive and exhausting process, the preparation of notarised documents and translations are not an obstacle for pensioners’ residency. The pensioners’ main problem with the Law is that certain details in the Law contradict the pensioners’ ongoing ways of life. Many German pensioners have been settled in Turkey for more than twenty years. However, they do not spend all their time in Turkey. Some of the wealthier pensioners use Turkey as a hub for their vacations abroad. Besides, many pensioners frequently go to Germany to visit their family members such as their children and grandchildren, who happen to live there. Apart from these vacations and visits, they arrange other two-month overseas trips to avoid the hot weather in July and August. By adding their visits to Germany for health-related reasons on top of those trips, it appears that the pensioners stay in Turkey for approximately eight to nine months a year. This average time of stay in Turkey is in conflict with the YUKK in several aspects. It is apparent that according to the ‘90 in 180 days’ rule, an eight to nine month stay is too long a duration to live in Turkey without having a residence permit. Besides, pensioners who lived in Turkey in that manner for years are deemed not to have remained in Turkey long enough to complete the required legal duration of stay to obtain a permanent residence permit, as the regulation requires that one must not be out of Turkey for more than 365 days in the last five years. Consequently, pensioners can solely apply for the short-term residence permit, which covers a maximum of one year. As the pensioners were previously able to obtain five-year residence permits, they now claim that their right to be a legal resident deteriorated by the implementation of the one-year rule. Yet, there is a more important issue with regard to the new regulation: short-term residence permits are cancelled in the event of staying abroad for more than 120 days. Besides, the applicants do not even know whether they will be eligible for re-applying after having their permits cancelled once, since the relevant article of the Law is vague and subject to controversial interpretations by different jurists.
Apart from the problems with regard to the Law, pensioners also complain about some practical issues: the applications for residence permits can only be made in Antalya now and no longer in Alanya, due to the new organisational structure of the Migration Management. This means extra time and travel. Pensioners face problems with the new digital application system as they are not familiar with using computers and one-year application itself is naturally more challenging and costly than the five-year one.
These are the reasons why pensioners perceive the YUKK as a torment. As their economic assets are based in Turkey, they emphasise that they are not a burden on Turkey at all. They further stress that they spend most of their pensions within Turkey. In that respect, the pensioners believe that the Republic of Turkey does not have a right to control their arrival-departure dates and the number of days they stay in Turkey in order to let them stay in Turkey. Hence, a lot of German pensioners I have interviewed express their intention to move back to Germany permanently, stressing that the conditions were entirely different from today when they first moved to Turkey.
As it is also shown by the research on the ‘guest-workers’ from Turkey to Germany, this sort of plans of moving back can prove nothing more than socio-psychological defence mechanisms of migrants who do not feel secure about their status in a country. These plans do not necessarily mean that they eventually end up with leaving Turkey. Still, although it brings some significant improvements, I should emphasise that the YUKK embodies articles that deteriorate the current situation of some migrants. The main question is how the lawmakers will act further in the face of the new problems of the migrants who are not deemed problematic and have been happily welcomed for various reasons.
Dr. Barbara Pusch, Mercator-IPC Fellow Istanbul Policy Center, Sabancı University
Please cite this publication as follows:
Pusch, B. (October, 2015), “German Retirement Tranquillity that the ‘Law on Foreigners and International Protection’ Cannot Protect” Vol. IV, Issue 10, pp.39-47, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, Research Turkey ( http://researchturkey.org/?p=9845)
The YUKK has been translated into eleven languages; Turkish, English, Russian, Italian, Bulgarian, German, Arabic, French, Greek, Persian, Spanish. The Law can be downloaded from the official website of the Migration Management. [Accessed on 15 September 2015], Available at:
The status of Temporary Protection is regulated under article 91 of the YUKK.
The YUKK consists of 6 parts: Part One includes the purpose, scope and some definitions together with the principle of non–refoulement. Part Two of the Law regulates foreigners’ entry into Turkey, visas and residence permits, status of stateless persons and deportation. Provisions concerning International Protection fall within Part Three of the YUKK. Part Four comprises of Common Provision Regarding Foreigners and International Protection. Provisions regarding the establishment of the Directorate General of Migration Management and the duties of the Migration Management are listed under Part Five. The last part of the Law includes provisions such as the repealed legislation and interim provisions. For the English version of YUKK, [Accessed on 28 September 2015], Available at:
This information was transmitted to the author verbally by German Consul Martin Vetter during an interview. The interview was conducted on 13 June 2015 in Antalya during the academic field research. For general information on the field research, see endnote 7.
For the TÜİK number, see Balkır, Canan and Kaiser, Bianca (2015), ‘Türkiye’de Avrupa Birliği Vatandaşları,’ (European Union Citizens in Turkey) Türkiye’nin Göç Tarihi. 14. Yüzyıldan 21. Yüzyıla Türkiye’ye Göçler (Turkey’s History of Migration. Immigration to Turkey from the 14th Century to the 21st Century), in M. Murat Erdoğan and Ayhan Kaya (eds.), İstanbul, İstanbul Bilgi Universitesi Yayınları (Istanbul Bilgi University Press), pp. 221-241.
The name of the project is ‘Double Citizenship in the Turkish-German Transnational Area and Other Legal Affiliation Statuses.’ For a short introductory video of the project, see:
As part of the project, I conducted an academic fieldwork between 8 and 17 July 2015 in Antalya’s Alanya region. During this work, alongside German pensioners I interviewed individuals such as German investors in the region, Germans who are working in the tourism sector, German NGOs providing legal consultancy, Germany’s Consul for Antalya Martin Vetter and the Director-General of Alanya Council of Foreigners Abdullah Karaoğlu.
Two interviews were held with the speaker of the Council of Foreigners, Abdullah Karaoğlu, on 14th and 16th of July, 2015 in Alanya during the field study. The information used in the text was collected from the interview held on 14th of July, 2015.
The interview held with Abdullah Karaoğlu, 14.07.2015.
E.g., according to a research by Canan Balkır in Antalya and its surroundings, 71% of the local residents disapprove the real estate ownership of the foreigners while %61 of them do not want to live in the same neighbourhood with them. (Balkır, C., Karaman, Z. and Kırkulak B. (2008). ‘Yabancı Emekli Göçünün Sosyal ve Ekonomik Etkileri: Antalya ve Çevresi Üzerine Ampirik bir Çalışma,’ (The Social and Economic Effects of Foreign Pensioner Migration: An Empirical Study on Antalya and its Surroundings) in Uluslararası Emekli Göçün Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etkileri: Antalya Örneği (The Economic and Social Effects of International Migration of Pensioners: The Antalya Example), Canan Balkır (eds.), Antalya: Kutlu & Avi, pp. 8-38.
For the activities of the Council, see
For residence permits, see YUKK, Articles 30-49.
For the rule of “90 in 180 days,” see YUKK, Article 11.
For the short term residence permit, see YUKK, Articles 31-33.
For the long term residence permit, see YUKK, Articles 42-25.
YUKK, Article 45 (1/b).
For the reason of this cancellation process, see YUKK, Article 33 (1/c).
However, this will be changed soon again. [Accessed on 6 October 2015], Available at: