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Visits to Relatives

As a result of various migratory movements in the history, today many families are divided by borders. There is no doubt that international travels to visit family members living in another country represent a significant sector of tourism. The family exchange visits of this type take place especially between Turkey and four of its neighbours: Greece, Syria, Georgia, and Iran. Although not a neighbouring country to Turkey, Israel should also be included in this group. When the number of foreign visitors who entered Turkey in 2013 is considered by nationality, it is seen that some 674,366 people entered Turkey from Greece, 91,549 people from Syria, 1,732,706 people from Georgia, 1,081,626 people from Iran, and 129,414 people from Israel in total. Of these visitors, the numbers of those who arrived to visit relatives were 47,639, 48,401, 407,434, 141,577, and 5080 people in above order. Accordingly, the ratios of those who arrived to visit their relatives to the total number of visitors are 52.86 % for Syria, 23.51 % for Georgia, 13.08 % for Iran, 7.06 % for Greece, and 3.92 % for Israel in descending order.

One of the most interesting examples of visiting relatives is between Turkey and Syria. Many Syrian Arabs have relatives in Turkey and visit each other during religious holidays (bairams). This, however, was not always the case. The 1921 Ankara Agreement traced the border between Turkey and Syria, separating many families. Family members on the two sides of the border were forced to exchange bairam greeting from some distance and to throw gifts across the fence. In 2000, the governors of the provinces along the border decided to allow relatives from the two countries to meet in the official border-crossing areas during the bairam. Later on, another agreement allowed family members to visit each other for 48 h instead. During each bairam, about 80 thousand people moved between the two countries using the official border gates in Kilis, Gaziantep, Hatay, ┬žanliurfa, and Mardin. Unfortunately, the practice had to be discontinued in 2011 due to the civil war in Syria.

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