Ga direct naar de content

Seminar – Democratic decline and return migration: What motivates highly-skilled return to autocratizing countries?


Migration scholars present democratic decline as an emigration driver. This effect is more pronounced among highly-skilled citizens who have the resources and capability to settle abroad. Yet, not much attention has been paid to why highly-skilled emigrants would opt to return to their autocratizing countries, even if they are concerned about the political path the country has taken. This article provides answers to this puzzle through 41 semi-structured interviews with highly-skilled Turkish citizens who were born and raised in Turkey and who, after living abroad, voluntarily returned after 2016, when Turkey’s autocratization reached its peak. It finds two main groups of factors shaping return decisions: 1) affective reasons 2) socio-economic reasons. Yet, it also finds that autocratization has paradoxically acted as a motivating factor for some return migrants who wanted to move back to contribute to the fight for democratization. Building on this, the article conceptualizes “voluntary return migration as voice” (a la Hirschman), a new analytical lens to approach highly-skilled migration flows in autocratizing countries.


  • Gülay Türkmen (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung)