The situation of Turkish migrant workers in Europe

Doc. 10358 rev.
25 November 2004

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mr Gülçiçek and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.         Turkish migrant workers make up a significant proportion of the immigrant population in certain Council of Europe member states. The first wave of Turkish emigration began in the early 1960s in response to the needs of the West German economy. Suffering from a labour shortage, West Germany signed a bilateral agreement with Turkey in October 1961 on the short-term emigration of Turkish workers. As the German term “Gastarbeiter” (guest worker) indicates, the Turkish migrants intended staying in Germany for only a short period before returning to their country of origin. However, it was clear by 1967 that the immigration that had been expected to be temporary had become more long-term. In addition to West Germany, other European countries signed bilateral agreements with Turkey (Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, France, Sweden and Switzerland) and, with time, Turkish immigrant workers have become an integral part of society in many European countries.

2.         According to Turkish Labour Ministry sources, 3 038 215 Turkish citizens were living in EU countries at the end of 1999, including one million of working age who were in employment or seeking employment. In terms of geographical distribution, there were over 730 000 in Germany, 76 000 in France, 57 000 in Austria, 51 000 in the Netherlands and 44 000 in the United Kingdom.

3.         The Assembly wishes to look into the situation of the Turkish migrant workers living in Council of Europe member states because of their large numbers and the length of time they have spent in Europe. The issue is important, as it has economic, social and cultural implications. There is a need to clarify certain fundamental aspects of the migrants’ legal status: firstly, the question of the integration of these migrant workers in their host society and that of their possible reintegration in their country of origin if they return home, particularly with regard to access to social rights (transfer of pensions, health insurance) and, secondly, the lack of arrangements enabling them to obtain employment in a country other than their host country.

4.         The situation of the Turkish migrant workers in the European Union (EU) is based on an association agreement signed by the EU and Turkey in 1963, which lays down their rights in terms of employment, social protection and freedom of movement. If an even more consistent policy was properly implemented at Council of Europe level, it would enable them to enjoy treatment of a kind comparable with that of national workers.

5.         The Assembly underlines that it has always paid particular attention to the situation of migrant workers in Europe through the adoption of numerous recommendations: Recommendation 36 (1949) on migrant workers, Recommendation 712 (1973), Order No 338 (1973) and Resolution 551 (1973) on the integration of migrant workers with the society of their host countries, Recommendation 879 (1979) on the movement of persons between the member states of the Council of Europe, Recommendation 968 (1983) and Order No 420 (1983) on xenophobic attitudes and movements in member countries with regard to migrant workers, Recommendation 1007 (1985) on the return of migrant workers to their county of origin, Recommendation 1066 (1987) on the social protection of migrant workers and their families, Recommendation 1082 (1988) on the right of permanent residence for migrant workers and members of their families and Recommendation 1587 (2002) on residence, legal status and freedom of movement of migrant workers in Europe: lessons from the case of Portugal.

6.         Other instruments adopted by the Council of Europe deal with migrant workers’ rights, for instance, Resolution 557 (1973) on the responsibility of the member States of the Council of Europe regarding the free movement of people in Europe, the European Convention on Establishment (1955), the Code of European Social Security (revised) (1990) and, more generally, the European Social Charter (1961). Lastly, the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers (1977) and the European Convention on Social Security (1972) are clearly major instruments for this analysis of the situation of Turkish migrant workers in Europe.

7.         The Assembly believes that it is important to check the implementation of these various instruments by the member states, in particular with regard to Europe’s largest immigrant population.

8.         The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers:

i.          to ask its relevant bodies to study the situation of Turkish migrant workers in Europe as regards their social integration, pension rights and more general social rights, as well as their possible entitlement to freedom of movement in terms of employment;

ii.          to urge those member countries which have not already done so to sign and ratify the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers and the European Convention on Social Security;

iii.         to urge member countries to make sure that pension rights are transferable regardless of the country of destination of Turkish migrant workers and to provide adequate information on their entitlement to social housing, social protection, pensions and health services.

Signed [1]:

GÜLÇIÇEK, Ali Riza, Turkey, SOC
ALIYEV, Bakhtiyar, Azerbaijan, SOC
ÇAVUSOGLU, Mevlüt, Turkey, EDG
CILEVICS, Boriss, Latvia, SOC
DANIELI, Franco, Italy, LDR
EINARSSON, Mats, Sweden, UEL
ILASCU, Ilie, Romania, NR
JUDD, United Kingdom, SOC
LE GUEN, Jean-Marie, France, SOC
STOISITS, Terezija, Austria, SOC
TEKELIOGLU, Mehmet, Turkey, EPP/CD
TKÁC, Vojtech, Slovakia, EDG
van THIJN, Ed, Netherlands, SOC



Socialist Group
Group of the European People’s Party
European Democratic Group
Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Group of the Unified European Left
Not registered in a group