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Turks in France

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Turks in France

Turks in France
Total population
800,000 (2014 estimate)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly Sunni Islam, others

Turks in France or French Turks (French: Turcs de France; Turkish: Fransa Türkleri) refers to the Turkish people who live in France. After Germany, France is the main destination country for Turks who emigrate.[2]


Early Ottoman migration

The first Turks settled in France during the 16th and 17th century as galley slaves and merchants from the Ottoman Empire;[3][4] the historian Ina Baghdiantz McCabe has described Marseille as a "Turkish town" during this time.[5] According to Jean Marteilhe "…the Turks of Asia and Europe...of whom there are a great many in the galley of France, who have been made slaves by the Imperialists, and sold to the French to man their galleys… are generally well-made, fair in feature, wise in their conduct, zealous in the observance of their religion, honourable and charitable in the highest degree. I have seen them give away all the money they possessed to buy a bird in a cage that they might have the pleasure of giving it its liberty".[6]

Modern Turkish migration

France signed a bilateral labour recruitment agreement with Turkey on 8 May 1965[7] because the number of entrants from other countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal was not sufficient.[8] However, in practice, France started to recruit Turkish labourers in the 1970s, until a decision was made to halt the recruitment on 3 July 1974.[8] By 1975 there were 55,710 Turkish workers living in France,[8] this had almost quadrupled to 198,000 in 1999.[9] The majority of Turkish immigrants came from rural areas of Turkey, especially from central Anatolia.[10]


The Eiffel Tower in Paris wearing the colours of the Turkish flag during the "Saison de la Turquie en France".

The majority of Turks are mainly concentrated in eastern France.[11] There is a strong Turkish presence in Île-de-France (especially in Paris), Nord-Pas-de-Calais (mainly in the cities of Calais, Lille, and Roubaix), Rhône-Alpes (especially in Lyon), Alsace (mainly in Strasbourg) and Lorraine.[12][13] There is also a large community in Marseille.[14]

The 10th arrondissement of Paris is steeped with Turkish culture and is often called "La Petite Turquie" (Little Turkey).[15] Bischwiller, in Alsace, is often dubbed "Turkwiller" due to its large Turkish community.[16]


Official censuses

According to the French census there was 8,000 Turks living in France in 1968, this had increased to 51,000 in 1975, 123,000 in 1982, 198,000 in 1990, and 208,000 in 1999.[17][12] The French censuses only collect data based on the country of birth, therefore, these figures only identify the number of Turkish immigrants from Turkey and does not include the children of immigrants born in France who are recorded as "French" rather than "Turkish".[18] Furthermore, the Turkish population would be greater if naturalised citizens and illegal emigrants were also taken into account.[19] Turkish communities who have emigrated to France from other countries, such as Algeria (Turco-Algerians), Bulgaria (Bulgarian Turks), Cyprus (Turkish Cypriots) and Tunisia (Turco-Tunisians), are recorded according to their country of origin rather than their Turkish ethnicity.

Estimated population

In the early 2000s academics placed the Turkish population at approximately 500,000.[13][20][21] Since the 2010s, immigration flows from Turkey have been increasing faster than flows from Algeria and Morocco.[10] The Turkish population increases by approximately 20,000 each year, although in 2013 it increased a further 35,000.[1] In 2014 the L'Express estimated that there was 800,000 Turks living in France.[22] The Fransa Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği suggests that the actual Turkish population in France is about 1 million, including descendents.[23] The Armenian Weekly has also stated that "there are also about a million French people of Turkish origin".[24]

Birth rates

Although the birth rates among Turks living in France has declined over the years they remain substantially higher than the French population. In 1982, the average number of children for Turks was 5.2, compared with 1.8 for the French population. By 1990, the average number of births for Turks was 3.7 compared to 1.7 for the French population.[25]



In 2000, Akıncı and Jisa found that Turkish is spoken exclusively at home by 77% of families, while 68% of children speak French to one another.[26] Turkish children are monolingual in the Turkish language until they start school at the age of 2 or 3; thus, they find themselves in everyday situations in which they have to speak French with their peers.[27] By the age of 10, most children become dominant in the French language.[28] Nonetheless, even for those who use French more than Turkish in their daily lives, numerous studies have shown that they still emphasize the importance of Turkish as the language of the family, particularly for raising children.[29] Thus, there is a high degree of language maintenance in the Turkish community; frequent holidays to Turkey, the easy access and use of Turkish media, and the density of social networks help maintain their language.[30]

A Turkish mosque in Nantes.


The majority of Turks adhere to Islam and focus on creating their own mosques and schools, most of which are tightly linked to Turkey. Thus, Turks worship their religion mainly with others within their community.[31] Due to Turkish immigrants having a strong link to the Turkish state and much less knowledge of the French language, compared to other Muslim immigrants who have emigrated from French-speaking countries, Turks tend to build mosques where sermons are given in Turkish rather than French or Arabic.[32]

The French: Comité de coordination des musulmans turcs de France)[34] which brings under its umbrella a total of 210 mosques.[35] Its major competing network of mosques is run by the Millî Görüş movement (French: Communauté Islamique du Milli Görüş de France) which emphasizes the importance of solidarity of the community over integration into French society.[32] The Millî Görüş has an estimated 70 mosques in France.[32][35]


A Turkish kebab shop in Paris

The Turkish community is considered to be the least integrated immigrant community in France,[12] largely due to their strong attachment to their country of origin.[36] However, there is increasing recognition by Turkish officials that without successful integration the immigrant community cannot lobby for the home country.[36] For example, in 2010, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed that assimilation is different from integration and urged the Turkish community in France to integrate by applying for French citizenship.[37]



Discrimination against Turks in French society is seen particularly within the labour market when they are looking for jobs. Given a choice between a Turkish and a French with the same qualifications, French employers tend not to choose the immigrant applicant.[39][40]

Organisations and associations

  • Comité de coordination des musulmans turcs de France, the coordination committee for Turkish Muslims in France is linked to Turkey.[41]
  • "Fransa Türk Federasyonu", the French Turks Federation.[42]
  • "Migrations et cultures de Turquie" (ELELE), promote knowledge of Turkish immigration and helps to assist the integration of Turkish migrants into French society.[43]
  • "Le Groupement des Entrepreneurs Franco-Turcs" (FATIAD), the leading business association created by Turks living in France.[44]
  • Réseau Pro'Actif, A professional network created by second and third generations of Turks in France. It gathers graduates of the country's leading universities.

Notable people

See also



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Further reading

  • Böcker, A. (1996), “Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Migration from Turkey to Europe” Boðaziçi Journal Vol. 10, Nos. 1–2.
  • Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée orientale et le Monde Turco-iranien (1992), special issue on Turkish immigration in Germany and France, Paris: Centre d'Etude des Relations internationales, n°13.
  • Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée orientale et le Monde Turco-iranien (1996), special issue on Turkish migrant women in Europe, Paris: Centre d'Etude des Relations internationales, n°21.
  • Les Annales de l'Autre Islam (1995), special issue on Turkish diaspora in the World, Paris: Institut national des Langues et des Civilisations orientales, n°3.

External links

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