Belonging and Identity — Diaspora politics and its impact on migrants

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

In recent years there has been a rise in anti-Turkish feeling in Germany that corresponds to the political shift in Turkey since 2003, with a drive to expel people with Turkish heritage. Many German media outlets such as ‘Der Spiegel’, ‘Die Welt’ and politicians have consistently criticised the JDP (Justice and Development Party) and its policies. The policies of the Turkish government have been expanded, strengthened and now aimed to embrace Turkish migrants abroad.

The expansion and strengthening of Turkish politics under the JDP government included, amongst other things, the right of Turkish citizens abroad to participate in elections and referendums , which was introduced in 2008. Turkish migrants can participate without having to travel to Turkey as the change in the electoral law enabled Turkey to set up electoral offices abroad (Aydin, 2014).

Turkish migrants living in Germany without being naturalised are excluded from political participation in Germany’s democratic system (Pries 2014). The citizenship law of Germany was determined until 2000 by the blood right. Accordingly, one was considered a German if a parent is German. Holding German citizenship was only possible for people who had lived in Germany for at least 15 years. The law was supplemented in 2000 with the principle of birthplace. The principle allowed the child’s naturalisation if one of the parents has been living in Germany for at least 8 years with a permanent right of residence, proof of sufficient German language skills and the passing of the naturalisation test. However, holding a second citizenship as a German citizen causes the loss of German citizenship. In spite of this, multi-nationality exists in Germany. The different nationalities of the child’s parents allow to hold both nationalities and since 2014, this also applies to children of foreign parents who have been living in Germany for at least 8 years. Accordingly, children no longer have to decide between their parents’ citizenship. However, German citizenship regulation excludes Turkish migrants in Germany from holding dual citizenship due to the naturalisation requirements. Only exceptional cases, that demonstrate disadvantages that would arise when dropping the Turkish citizenship, allow dual citizenship of Turkish migrants in Germany.

Dual citizenship enables the participation of Turkish migrants in Germany at the political level. Turkish migrants without German citizenship cannot participate in any elections (nationwide and local), while EU citizens are entitled to participate in local elections (Sydow, 2016). The exclusion of Turkish migrants from participation in elections in Germany dates back to the 1960s, and has offered the Turkish government an open door. With a completely new diaspora policy and newly introduced diaspora institutions, Turkey now intends to “include Turks abroad” in its domestic and foreign focus. With the change of the Turkish election laws, Turkey integrated the excluded Turkish migrants in Germany into its political sphere (Aydin, 2014). The change revealed a social and legal conflict in Germany. Since Turkish citizens in Germany are able to participate in Turkish elections and dominantly vote for the JDP, they are being blamed and criticised for the Turkish political discourse. According to the 2017 Constitution Referendum, Turks in Germany voted by 63.1 % for a constitutional change, which was mainly criticised amongst the German society (Yeni Safak, 2018).

The political shift with the JDP has been researched widely, but its impact on Turkish migrants in Germany, their sense of belonging and identity has been missed out. The problem with German citizenship regulation and the political participation of Turkish migrants in Germany is only one of the many factors that burden the relationship between the Germans and the Turks. There is a large body of literature on the integration of Turkish migrants in Germany (Bade, 1992; Esser, 2005; Friedrichs and Blasius, 2001; Haug, 2003; Herbert, 2001; Janßen and Polat, 2005, Rauer and Schmidtke, 2001; Weiß and Trebbe, 2001) but hardly any research deals with the factors that shape 3rd generation Turkish migrants’ sense of belonging and identity. The literature ignores crucial political issues when assessing the integration, belonging and identity of Turkish migrants in Germany. The focus is rather on cultural, linguistic and religious differences that serve as an instrument when assessing the integration of Turkish migrants in Germany. Current literature barely investigates the role of diaspora institutions and umbrella organisations on the sense of belonging, identity and integration of Turkish migrants.

Hence, my research focuses on Turkish migrants in Germany and aims to identify what factors shape the 3rd generation Turkish Migrants’ belonging and identity and to ascertain the role of diaspora institutions, thus the political shift in Turkey. The results will present factors that have an impact on belonging and identity of migrants, highlight political emotions, demonstrate possible causal links between belonging and identity, and the role of diaspora institutions.

A new combination of interdisciplinary concepts enable the creation of a new conceptual framework. This framework can be applied internationally to various 3rd generation migrants, and will help identify sources of conflict, which in turn will contribute to the effective and successful creation of policies that will contribute to the sense of belonging, identity and integration of migrants.

The 21st century is characterised by transnational connections and various types of migration. Integration policies will always be on the agenda of government, which underlines the importance of this research.

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