The Migration of Fear: An Analysis of Migration Choices of Syrian Refugees

Mehmet Balcilar and Jeffrey B. Nugent

The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Volume 73 (2019), Pages 95-110


This study explores the relationship between refugees’ experiences of violence and their decisions to flee Syria, as well as the factors influencing their intentions to return or migrate elsewhere. The analysis is based on three waves of the Survey on Syrian Refugees carried out by the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey (AFAD). Among the determinants of individual-level migration decisions subsequent to conflict, the authors consider: sex; education level; income level; conflict-related measures (such as death of family members and damage to home in Syria); the duration of time lived as a refugee; and the quality of services (water and hygiene, health, security) offered to the refugee household.

Key findings:

  • Both the extent and duration of the violence in Syria and the duration of time as a refugee in Turkey raise the probability that a refugee will aspire to permanent settlement in another country and reduce the probability of return to Syria.
  • The higher the quality of services provided to refugees in the form of health care and security, the more likely the refugees wish to stay in Turkey.
  • Female refugees are more likely to return to Syria than males (but only if they are confident that it is safe to do so).
  • Refugees with higher incomes, education, skills, and better access to migration networks are more likely to migrate out of Turkey to Europe and elsewhere.