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Since the war in Syria began, Turkey has become home to the largest refugee population in the world, hosting over 3.7 million displaced Syrians. While Turkey initially welcomed them through an open-door refugee program, its policy has since become more restrictive and securitized, including threats of forced repatriation. This puzzling shift has been the subject of some limited scholarship, but there has been no comprehensive analysis of Turkey’s policies, particularly from a foreign relations perspective. This study attempts to address this paucity by examining the nexus between foreign and refugee policy, using two case studies. First, because Turkey had failed to project itself as a regional power in years prior, from 2015-2016 it shifted its emphasis to relations with the E.U., negotiating a deal with the latter in 2016. Turkey agreed to adopt an arrangement of restricting refugee movement towards Europe, gaining leverage in its relations with the E.U. In the second case, from 2016-2021, Turkey has found itself weakened and defensive in the Syria conflict, which refocused its security goals inward, though it continued to seek concessions from the E.U. As a result, the country adopted a more securitized policy with goals of resettlement and repatriation of refugees back to Syria. Both case studies thus demonstrate the influence of Turkey’s foreign policy on its refugee program, and the latter period also illustrates how refugee policy might influence foreign affairs.


The Global Insights Award