Displacing the border in Turkey: New strategies, new spaces, and new actors

Authors: Mert Peksen*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Political Geography, Migration, Middle East
Keywords: borders, bordering practices, refugee mobility, Turkey
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Turkey currently hosts around 3.6 million Syrian refugees under temporary protection and around 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries. While Turkish asylum system provides international protection, as well as access to certain rights and services, it strictly regulates the internal mobility of refugees. Currently, for Syrian refugees, travelling within the country is subject to authorization by local immigration authority. Focusing primarily on this travel permit regulation and its implementation, in particular, the involvement of transportation sector in managing human mobility in Turkey, my paper argues that the border operates in multiple locations within Turkish national territory, takes different forms such as internal travel documents, highway checkpoints, and bus ticket stalls, and spills into daily lives of ordinary citizens. Based on ethnographic study of the border in Turkey, I analyze the travel permit regulation and highlight how it frames internal refugee mobility as a security concern. Furthermore, I focus on the role that transportation sector plays in managing refugee mobility in Turkey as an illustrative example of how non-state actors get involved in border management. Later, I briefly discuss how refugees respond to such policies. I conclude the paper by arguing that 1) such regulations criminalize refugee mobility and lead to riskier ways of travel that cause an increasing number of lethal accidents on Turkish roads, 2) non-state actors mainly rely on the security logic of the state, and 3) finally, restrictions over internal mobility in Turkey should be understood in the broader framework of European-Turkish migration system.

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