Older Turkish migrants in the United Kingdom – their perceptions of social care

Dr Shereen Hussein (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London)
Dr Sema Öglak (Dokuz Eylül University)


The number of older people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups is on the increase in the United Kingdom. The Turkish population is no exception, with an estimated population of at least 500,000 in the UK. Three distinct Turkish groups with different cultural and historical backgrounds form different communities within the UK; these are Turkish, Turkish Cypriots and Alevi/Kurdish (but Turkish) citizens. Each group has their distinct culture, language and religious practice as well as diverse immigration histories and trajectories within the UK.

Recent Turkish immigration to the UK started in the early 19th century with varying immigration histories among the different groups. Migration of Turkish Cypriots to the UK intensified after the Second World War during the Cypriot conflict, and for economic reasons. According to the Home Affairs Committee statistics there were at least 300,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK in 2011, the vast majority resident in the capital, London. Migration of mainland Turkish people to the UK was associated with the UK textile industry expansion, with the majority of migrant workers arriving (and their families then following) during the late 1970s. The majority of such mainland Turkish migrants came from rural areas in Turkey. A distinct group is made up of Turkish passport holders who are ethnically Alevi/Kurdish; they arrived in the UK mostly as refugees since the 1990s due to conflicts on the Turkish borders with its neighbouring regions.

Turks, Alevi/Kurds and Turkish Cypriots living in the UK are sometimes termed ‘invisible minorities’, since social markers are not always present and complex interrelationships are in place between the three groups. There is little attention paid to the growing proportion of such communities now ageing in the UK, and concentrated in London.

Our research

Our research took place in London between October 2011 and February 2012. The research aimed to explore the experience, needs and perceptions of older Turkish migrants from these three distinct groups through interviews and focus group discussions. A total of 67 people aged 60 years or more participated in the research through individual interviews and one focus group discussion. Among these, 24 were Turkish Cypriots, 13 Turkish and 30 Alevi/Kurdish Turks.

The research explores issues of cultural and linguistic encounters and challenges, as well as instances of familiarity, integration and invisibility. The analysis investigates personal, community and institutional factors in the matter of ageing, the accessing of services and growing long term care needs. Initial analysis indicates that despite the heterogeneity of older Turkish migrants, the majority share barriers related to language, acceptance of care and access to services. Some participants felt that they are stereotyped into a certain category – one in which, it is thought, most of their needs are met through their own family and community.

The findings have wider implications and resonate with the experience of other older BME communities in the UK. The research indicates a need for more culturally appropriate services as well as a raised awareness of existing support to avoid social exclusion and facilitate access and participation, including socially inclusive and labour force activities among older Turkish communities.


Hussein, S. and Öglak, S. (2014) ‘Ageing, identity and place: the experience of Turkish migrants in the United Kingdom’, Turkish Migration in Europe International Conference, London 30 May – 1 June.

Öglak, S. and Hussein, S. (2014) ‘Active Ageing, Social and Cultural Integration of Elderly Turkish Alevi Refugees in London’, International Association of Social Science Research, European Conference on Social and Behavioral Sciences, Rome, Italy, 6 – 8 February.

Hussein, S. & Öglak, S. (2013) ‘Assumed and invisible roles of families and kinship in long term care provision among Turkish migrants in the UK’, 11th European Sociological Conference, Turin, 28 August.

Hussein, S. (2013) ‘Europe ageing populations: myth and reality’, Counterpoint and Open Societies Foundation workshop, London, 26 June.

Hussein, S. (2013) ‘Ageing Turkish migrants in European cities experience worrying levels of social isolation which can limit their access to health and social care services’, EUROPP – European Politics and Policy Blog, 18 February.

Hussein, S. (2013) ‘Families, communities and the state’, Invisible Communities: Working with older people from Europe and beyond. A joint conference from Making Research Count, Age UK London & the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, London, 30 January.

Hussein, S. & Öglak S. (2012) ‘Older Turkish migrants in the UK: role of distinct culture, immigration histories and unmet care needs’ [pdf, 344 KB], Turkish Migration in Europe Conference, Regent’s College London, London, 8 December.

Hussein S. & Öglak S. (2012) ‘Older Turkish migrants’ care needs in the UK: cultural encounters and unmet needs’ [pdf, 774 KB], 2nd International conference on Evidence-based Policy in Long-term Care, The Law Society, London, 6 September.