Germany’s New Dual Citizenship Law Increases Hopes of Integration for Turkish Diaspora 

In the decades since the 1960s, when Turkish people first migrated en masse to Germany to provide much-needed labor, Germans of Turkish origin have become Germany’s most prominent ethnic minority 

Kristina Jovanovski/The Media Line 

Germany’s new law increasing access to dual citizenship will allow for better integration of its large Turkish diaspora, members of that community told The Media Line. 

The Turkish diaspora in Germany, estimated at nearly 3 million people, has its roots in an immigration wave in the 1960s. Until the 1990s, Turkish people living in Germany, even those born there, were practically unable to receive German citizenship. As Germany’s citizenship laws loosened, more Germans of Turkish origin were granted German citizenship, but they were not eligible for dual citizenship until last week.  

Gökay Sofuoğlu, who heads an umbrella organization representing the Turkish community in Germany, told The Media Line he expects about 50,000 Turkish people living in Germany will apply for German citizenship each year. 

Having the ability to vote in German elections will be especially impactful for the community, he said.  

“It is an integration factor for all people if they can have a say in their lives and in social development. They will be more concerned with the future of Germany and develop a greater identification with Germany,” Sofuoğlu wrote in a message. 

Turkish migrants first moved to Germany as guest workers meant to fill gaps in the country’s labor market. In the decades since, the community has struggled to integrate and has faced widespread discrimination. 

In 2018, a German neo-Nazi was given a life sentence for the serial murders of eight Turkish people, as well as a German police officer and a Greek man, between 2000 to 2007. 

The Turkish-German soccer player Mesut Özil left the national German soccer team in 2018 after facing alleged discrimination.  

“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he said at the time. 

Yaşar Aydın, an associate with the Center for Applied Turkey Studies at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, explained that the German government did not provide support for early immigrants because it was expected they would eventually leave. 

“The first generation, and to some extent the second, were hardly encouraged to learn German and integrate into society. In the 1980s and 1990s, racism played a role when Turkish workers were seen as competition due to deindustrialization,” Aydın wrote in an email to The Media Line. 

He added that Turkish people may have also resisted integration because of cultural conservatism or plans to return to Turkey. 

Once Turkish people in Germany become citizens, politicians will start paying more attention to the community, Sofuoğlu said. 

“[While Turkish-] Germans have contributed so much to the prosperity of Germany, they have not received the appropriate appreciation from politicians,” he said. “The law also serves to ensure that all people in Germany are treated equally.” 

The law was passed as the ubiquity of the Turkish diaspora is on full display in Germany. During the Euro 2024 soccer championship, which Germany is hosting this summer, many Germans of Turkish origin are supporting Turkey’s team over Germany’s. Germany’s own team is also led by a captain with a Turkish background. 

The move of Turkish citizens to Germany has led to a close but often contentious relationship between the two NATO allies. 

Germany is one of the top sources of tourists for Turkey’s tourism market, and some top German manufacturers have factories in Turkey to take advantage of cheaper labor. 

The German government labels Turkey as its most important trading partner, with trade between the two countries reaching nearly $50 billion last year. 

However, relations have been strained, especially after a government crackdown in Turkey following the 2016 failed coup attempt. 

Turkish Germans are among the victims of widespread government repression in Turkey. A journalist working for a German newspaper was detained in 2017, leading to a diplomatic row between the two countries. 

Later that year, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attempted to garner support for a constitutional referendum that would increase his powers, Germany banned pro-Erdoğan rallies. The Turkish president accused Germany of Nazi behavior for blocking the rallies. 

The dual citizenship law may also impact Turkish politics. German citizens with Turkish roots are now allowed to apply for Turkish citizenship, giving them the right to vote in Turkey. 

Aydın said these Turkish-Germans are less likely to support Erdoğan and his far-right Justice and Development Party. 

“It is therefore possible that Erdoğan will lose voters in relative terms if many [German] Turks acquire Turkish citizenship and the right to vote in Turkish elections,” he said. 

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