During 2005–2010, Turkey had a net migration rate of -0.1 percent. As stated earlier, the Ministry of Labour indicated that in 2005, there were more than 4 million Turks living abroad, with 46 per cent, or about 1.8 million, in Germany (IOM 2008). German sources, however, estimate a much higher figure, putting the number of persons of Turkish descent in Germany at 2.8 million. Much of this settlement has been long-term. According to Berlin Institut (2009), 85.6 per cent of the Turkish migrants have been living in Germany for at least 8 years and only 18.1 per cent of the Turkish migrants have sought naturalization as German citizens (Berlin Institut 2009). Other important destinations of migrants from Turkey are France and the Netherlands (both each comprised 9.4 per cent of the total migrants abroad in 2005) (figure 2).

Out-migration from Turkey has occurred in different phases. The first phase entailed labour migration through bilateral agreements in the 1960s. Most out-migrants in this early phase were men who tended to migrate alone. In the 1970s, most destination countries in Europe stopped labour migration but still allowed family reunification. This changed the demographic pattern of out-migration in the 1970s to consist mostly of women and children.

As a result of the policy change on labour recruitment, migration flows from Turkey to Europe took another course but did not decrease. In the 1980s after a military coup d’état, migrant outflows came mainly from Turkey’s Eastern Provinces, mostly as refugees. The main countries granting asylum to refugees from Turkey were France, Germany and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Refugee outflows from Turkey declined in the late 1990s and the destinations changed; Germany remained the main destination country throughout the 1990s but due to tougher policies, asylum seekers from Turkey were cut almost to half (Focus Migration 2006). Instead, asylum seekers from Turkey increasingly sought asylum in other countries, particularly in Canada, France and Switzerland. In 2010, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees from Turkey abroad was about 147,000, down from about 194,000 in 2002 (figure 3).

Although some Turks are still migrating to Germany, a large number are returning to Turkey, resulting in a positive net migration from Germany in recent years. During 2005–2008, about 29,000 people migrated on average every year from Turkey to Germany while about 31,000 migrated from Germany to Turkey. This also indicates that a great deal of circular migration has been taking place between the two countries.

The direction of net migration used to be different for men and women. Until recently, more women were migrating from Turkey to Germany than women returning from Germany to Turkey. Turkish men, on the other hand, were returning to their home country from Germany at a greater pace than those migrating to Germany. This dynamic changed in 2008, when the number of women returning to Turkey increased strongly. As a result, the net migration for both women and men was positive (Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung fur Migration 2010).

Studying abroad has become increasingly popular for Turkish students. Germany used to be the most frequent destination to study overseas, but in recent years, the United States of America has become a more popular destination. In 2008, about 12,000 students from Turkey were studying in the United States of America (UNESCO no date).