When we look at what left its mark on the 2010s, we see many titles, especially the war in Syria. Although political figures such as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump will have a wider place in our visual memory of this decade, the mass migration movement and anti-immigrant discourse in the world seem to be the main issues of this decade. Because, with its causes and consequences, migration has become a determining factor at the highest level. From the local election results in Istanbul to the journey of far-right leaders in Europe, immigration and refugees are at the center of discussions on many issues.

When it comes to migration, it is possible to say that the debate has a multi-layered structure with many actors in the case of Turkey. There is a diversity in the legal status of the refugees who came to Turkey for various reasons, the country they came from, the perception towards them, and different understandings of refugees. This research aims to understand how the issue of refugees is reflected in the columns in the Turkish media, based on the opinion articles focusing on immigrants published in digital and printed publications representing different political orientations in the Turkish media between 12 July 2021 and 31 August 2021.

Throughout the research, many different questions such as how columnists define immigrants, whether there is particular emphasis on the gender factor, how the demographic profile of immigrants is defined by columnists, which groups of immigrants are the subject of the articles most, or the migration motivations of immigrants have been focused on. 50 opinion articles about refugees published on Akşam, Aydınlık, Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Dünya, Evrensel, Gazete Duvar, Habertürk, Hürriyet, Karar, Korkusuz, Milat, Milliyet, Ortadoğu, Posta, Sol Haber, Sözcü, Türkgün, Yeniçağ, Yeni Şafak have been analyzed. 

The results of the research can be summarized as follows:

  • Columnists use different terms such as immigrant, asylum seeker, refugee. There is no unity in the terminology.
  • It is not possible to see very different voices about the migration issue in the same newspaper. Columnists often take similar stances with other writers in their newspapers.
  • Refugees are accused by some columnists of being a threat to their lifestyle or of being prone to crimes such as harassment, rape, drug dealing, extortion; however, this tendency is found in the minority of the examined columns.
  • The refugee debate has mostly been handled as security or economic problem rather than the legal status and living standards of immigrants.
  • While a negative discourse towards refugees was used in 21 of the 50 columns analyzed, a positive tone was dominant in 17 of them. The remaining 12 texts used a neutral tone.
  • The intense emphasis on the gender of refugees in social networks was found in only 8 of the 50 articles analyzed. Some expressions such as “men leaving their women behind” were used.
  • It is difficult to talk about a positive correlation between the positive discourse on immigrants and the positive discourse on the state’s immigration policies.
  • Pro-government media mostly treat refugees neutrally or positively. Immigration and security policies of the state are also handled in a positive way.
  • While the negative discourse about the responsibility of the state regarding the issue is more intense in the oppositional newspapers, there is an approach that we can define as either positive or neutral in the pro-government newspapers.