Immigration and the Contested Boundaries of Citizenship: A Comparative Analysis of Greece and Turkey

Serdar A.

14th ESA Conference, Manchester, United Kingdom, 20 - 23 August 2019

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Manchester
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Nation-state formations in Turkey and Greece shaped each
other in complex ways. Both states pursued similar
mechanisms of assimilation towards ethnic diversity, and
sought to assimilate non-dominant ethnic groups who share
the same religion with the dominant majority by denying their
minority status and promising full-fledged citizenship rights if
they assimilate. Their immigration and naturalization policies
also remained relatively open only to the immigrants deemed
to have “the same descent”. In both cases, the legitimate
membership in the nation-state is maintained by strong ethnic
tones. In the last decades, both Turkey and Greece
experienced a massive flow of refugees and irregular migrants,
which challenged the boundary-making mechanisms of
citizenship. By examining the historical background and
current official data, political discourse and recent legal
changes, I analyze the divergence and convergence patterns of
citizenship and naturalization policies between two cases.
Greece is challenged by the large numbers of non-co-ethnic
immigrants who cannot be incorporated by the former
restrictive policies of naturalization. The result is reforming the
laws to a relatively more inclusive and territorial principle in a
highly contested climate. In Turkey, the dominant political
discourse is characterized by the “religious brotherhood” with
displaced Syrian Muslims. The selective application of the
recent laws of naturalization tends to include mostly Sunni
Muslim Syrians with economic and cultural capital and falls
short of developing a pluralist and civic understanding of
national boundaries towards other immigrants and refugees.
This study comparatively explores the extent to which the
recent laws and practices of citizenship and naturalization
triggered by the "refugee crisis" are capable of democratizing
and transforming the ethnicist and assimilationist legacies of
nation-making in Turkey and Greece.