Syrian refugees in Turkey: from "guests" to "enemies"?

Creative Commons License

Koca B. T.

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TURKEY, no.54, pp.55-75, 2016 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: Issue: 54
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/npt.2016.4
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.55-75
  • Eskisehir Osmangazi University Affiliated: Yes


Since the war erupted in Syria in 2011, Turkey has followed an "open door" policy toward Syrian refugees. The Turkish government has been promoting this liberal policy through a humanitarian discourse that leads one to expect that Syrian refugees have not been securitized in Turkey. This article, however, argues that a security framework that emphasizes control and containment has been essential to the governance of Syrian refugees in Turkey, despite the presence of such non-securitarian discourses. To develop this argument, the article first builds an analytical framework based on a critical engagement with the theory of securitization, which was originally developed by the Copenhagen School. Unlike the Copenhagen School's theory emphasizing "speech acts" as the vector of securitization, this article applies a sociological approach to the analysis of the securitization process by focusing on both discursive and non-discursive practices. In carrying out this analysis, securitizing practices, both discursive and non-discursive, are defined as those that: (1) emphasize "control and containment," especially in relation to societal/public security concerns (here, specifically, the labor market and employment); and (2) establish a security continuum about various other issues-including criminality, terrorism, socioeconomic problems, and cultural deprivation-and thereby treat migrants as "risky" outsiders. Subsequently, in line with this analytical framework, the article seeks to trace the securitization of non-camp Syrian refugees, especially in the labor market. Finally, the article demonstrates that this securitization process is likely to conceal structural and political problems, and to close off alternative public and political debate about the refugees.