At this week's International Migration Symposium in the southern city of Gaziantep, academics and government ministers from Turkey and Germany discussed the 50-year story of Turkey's migrants in German society.
The symposium, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and German State Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration Maria Böhmer, focused both on how Turks have integrated into German society and the increasingly integral role they play in the country's economy and society.
Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin told members of the conference during her opening remarks that regardless of the context or nation, governments must manage the movements of migrants with the understanding that “what falls on the government's shoulders is to make the flow of migrants into something positive.”
Quoted by the Anatolia news agency, Şahin continued: “Should a migrant come to another land out of hope, for work, for bread … it falls upon us [as a government] to make that move into something productive.” This was the broader message of the conference, which opened with a clip from a documentary about the 50 years of Turkish immigration to Germany. Turks began arriving in West Germany in 1961 after the Turkish and West German governments signed an unprecedented labor agreement that allowed for easy Turkish immigration.
“One generation went saying, ‘We'll return immediately',” recounted Şahin, pointing out that many chose to stay and that as of 2010, over 1.6 million Turks lived in Germany. Şahin's speech underlined many positive aspects of the German government's efforts to improve the life of migrants, underlining the widespread improvement in Turkish migrants' standard of living and equality in the German labor market.
The conference is set to continue throughout the weekend, with speeches by Arınç and Böhmer slated for Saturday.