Held at the gates of Europe: barriers to abolishing immigration detention in Turkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By examining how Turkey has strategically leveraged its immigration detention practices in its relationship to the EU, this article draws scholarly attention to the neglected international dimensions of detention policy-making. While narratives of national security bolster the justification for detention of asylum seekers and other migrants, this article focuses on additional roles that Turkey calls on detention to play in its relationship with the European Union. In particular, the article discusses ‘transit migration’ as a policy discourse Turkey has strategically adopted and leveraged to its advantage when dealing with the EU. As form of ‘premature labelling’, this discourse undermines the claims of belonging that foreign nationals labelled as transit migrants have in Turkey. Thus, it provides a narrative for justifying detention expansion. This international dimension of detention policy-making must be taken into account for future discussions around how to curb or abolish the practice at the borders of Europe and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-press)
JournalCitizenship Studies
Early online date22 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Turkey’s relationship with the EU has directly influenced the infrastructure and legislation that governs immigration detention in Turkey today. The construction of detention facilities has featured in negotiations with EU and EU funding has been used to construct detention facilities. There are currently 28 Removal Centres in Turkey with a holding capacity of 20.000. The capacity for detention has more than doubled since 2017 (DGMM ). Turkey’s detention capacity has grown significantly over the past few years with financial and logistical support from the EU. (ECRE ; Kaytaz , ; Özçürümez and Şenses ). The establishment of detention centres, or Removal Centres, was mentioned both in the 2003 Turkish National Plan and the 2005 Asylum and the Migration National Action Plan. Furthermore, the Twinning Project (2009–2011) titled ‘Support to Turkey’s Capacity in Combating Illegal Migration and Establishment of Removal Centres for Illegal Migrants’ provided for the construction of Removal Centres in the cities of Ankara and Erzurum with financial support from the European Commission. The project also included non-pecuniary support with developing guidelines and training. Finally, five of the six EU-funded Reception and Accommodation Centres as part of this twinning project have been repurposed as Removal Centres following the recent negotiations between Turkey and the EU.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Detention
  • EU-Turkey relations
  • transit migration
  • Turkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Held at the gates of Europe: barriers to abolishing immigration detention in Turkey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this