Registration of the asylum application

Austria

Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 25/04/22

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According to LFIP, the PDMM is the responsible authority for receiving and registering applications for international protection.[1]

Applications on the territory

Applications for international protection are made to the “Governorates” “in person”, indicating that applicants are expected to physically approach the PDMM and personally present their request.[2] Applications for international protection may not be made by a lawyer or legal representative. However, a person can apply on behalf of accompanying family members, defined to cover the spouse, minor children and dependent adult children as per Article 3(1)(a) LFIP.[3] Where a person wishes to file an application on behalf of adult family members, the latter written approval needs to be taken.

According to the law, for applicants who are physically unable to approach the PDMM premises for making an international protection request, officials from the PDMM may be directed to the applicant’s location in order to process the application.[4] In the same way, registration interviews with unaccompanied minors and other persons who are unable to report to the designated registration premises in the province may be carried out in the locations where they are.[5] There is no indication that these provisions have been applied in practice so far.

Article 65 LFIP does not impose any time limits on persons for making an application as such, whether on the territory, in detention or at the border. However, Article 65(4) appears to impose on applicants the responsibility of approaching competent authorities “within a reasonable time” as a precondition for being spared from punishment for illegal entry or stay. The assessment of whether an application has been made “within a reasonable time” is to be made on an individual basis.[6]

The LFIP states that applications for international protection shall be registered by the PDMM.[7] Applicants can request and shall be provided interpretation services for the purpose of the registration interview and later the personal interview.[8]

Access to the international protection procedure changed substantially in 2018. Whereas a “joint registration” arrangement was previously in place between PDMM and UNHCR, whereby UNHCR and its implementing partner SGDD-ASAM registered applications in Ankara and then directed applicants to “satellite cities” to lodge their applications with the PDMM,[9] on 10 September 2018 UNHCR terminated  its registration activities in Türkiye.[10] UNHCR still has a role to promote access to and the provision of protection.

Applications for international protection are now registered solely by the PDMM in any of the 81 provinces. In practice, however, if the PDMM approached by an asylum seeker cannot receive his or her application, it directs the person to a “satellite city” with a view to registering the application there.[11] Applicants are expected to register at the PDMM of the assigned “satellite city” within 15 days. Failure to appear within 15 days leads to the application being considered as withdrawn (“cancelled”). PMM does not provide assistance with transportation costs but can refer applicants to NGOs such as SGDD-ASAM for assistance.

Article 69 LFIP does not lay down any time limits for the completion of registration by the PDMM, although its Implementing Regulation, the Regulation on Foreigners and International Protection (RFIP), requires applications to be recorded “within the shortest time on the institutional software system” of PMM.[12] The RFIP provides that application authorities shall notify the applicant a date for his or her registration interview during the application if possible, otherwise at a later stage.[13]

In practice, the takeover of the process by PMM in September 2018 resulted in obstacles to access to the asylum procedure. Issues persisted in 2019 and arbitrariness increased after the takeover of registration of non-Syrians.[14] It is difficult to assess the overall system since there is no standardised application.[15] However, the main public policy has seemed to be to leave people unregistered to push them to leave Türkiye, especially Afghans, except in vulnerable cases.[16] Afghans are thus kept as ‘unregistered irregular migrants’ in the migration system or they are treated under the accelerated procedure when their application for international protection is received. [17] In 2020, problems were compounded by COVID-19.

The registration interview serves to compile information and any documents from the applicant to identify identity, flight reasons, and experiences after departure from country of origin, travel route, mode of arrival in Türkiye, and any previous applications for international protection in another country.[18] The PDMM may carry out a body search and checks on the personal belongings of applicants in order to confirm that all documents have been presented.[19] Where an applicant is unable to present documents to establish his or her identity, the registration authorities shall rely on an analysis of personal data and information gathered from other research. Where such identification measures fail to provide the relevant information, the applicant’s own statements shall be accepted to be true.[20]

Where there are concerns that an applicant may have a medical condition threatening public health, he or she may be referred to a medical check.[21] Information on any special needs shall also be recorded.[22] Since the termination of UNHCR registration activities in 2018, it is unclear how this is handled by the PDMM. It appears, nevertheless, that registration is exceptionally allowed for asylum seekers facing emergencies such as pregnancy or severe illness, who are registered in order to make sure that they get medical assistance.[23] One stakeholder in 2021 estimated that since 2018, the registration rate had dropped 50% for international protection status.[24]

At the time of applying, the asylum seeker must provide a hand-written, signed statement containing information about the international protection application in a language in which he or she is able to express themselves. The statement shall contain specific elements including the reasons for entering Türkiye, as well as any special needs of the applicant.[25] Illiterate applicants are exempt from this requirement. Furthermore, the PDMM shall also obtain any supporting documents that the applicant may have with him or her and fill in a standard International Protection Application Notification Form, which will be delivered to the DGMM Headquarters within 24 hours.

At the end of the registration interview, all the information recorded on the screen of the electronic system must be precisely read back to the applicant who will have the opportunity to make corrections.[26] A printed version of the registration form filled in electronically is also handed to the applicant.[27]

The law states that the applicant will receive an International Protection Applicant Identification Card upon completion of registration.[28] The Ministry carries out the renewal and extension of International Protection Applicant Identification Card.[29] As of 24 December 2019, the LFIP provides that this document is also issued to applicants falling under the Accelerated Procedure or the inadmissibility provisions,[30]  and the obligation to renew Identification Cards every six months was abolished.[31]

Following this reform, the PDMM no longer issues a Registration Document when directing the asylum seeker to the assigned “satellite city” with a view to registering the international protection application. The only documentation the applicant receives is the International Protection Applicant Identification Card that is valid for six months after having registered the application with the PDMM at the appointed province.[32] This means that asylum seekers are required to travel to the assigned province without being provided documentation to attest their intention to seek international protection. In practice, people are often apprehended during police controls throughout the country and are thus at risk of being transferred to a Removal Centre (see Detention of Asylum Seekers).

Registrations of international/temporary protection were suspended from March to June 2020 in almost every city in Türkiye due to COVID-19. International and temporary protection applications could be submitted in very few cities and this information was not shared publicly. There were rumours that applications were open in Yalova one day, but then that they were closed after two weeks. Both unregistered refugees and new arrivals had problems accessing the procedure and registration.

There were additional problems such as physically accessing PDMM buildings due to COVID-19 measures as with most other public institutions. A HES code, which is a personal code implemented by the Ministry of Health in order to track positive COVID-19 cases, was requested from lawyers to enter PDMM buildings in İzmir.[33] In İstanbul lawyers could not enter PDMM buildings at all, especially Kumkapı. Lawyers could only talk to the security at the door, not even someone from the administrative staff. The security guard took a note of messages and passed them on to the administrative office. Communication between the administration and lawyers was difficult, thus raising concerns as regards the right to an effective remedy.[34] In Van, even applicants with UNHCR refugee status were summoned and notified that their application had been rejected. The most problematic group was those whose applications had been deemed withdrawn by PMM.[35] In the Central Anatolia and the Marmara region, a HES code was also mandatory to enter the PDMM buildings and this caused problems for first-time applicants and refugees whose applications were rejected since they did not have an ID number and could not apply for a HES code. Those who did not have a smartphone also had difficulties in getting a code and entering PDMMs.

During COVID-19, signature obligations were relatively flexible for 4-5 months. PDMMs did not work at full capacity and some of the officers were working from home. Many refugees stayed in İstanbul without registration. Refugees tried to go to provinces of registration without a road permit and in violation their signature obligations; however, they could not be registered. Refugees in İzmir, Muğla, Aydın, the Marmara Region and Central Anatolia reported not being able to reach administrative staff (migration officers) at the PDMM offices with the security guards ‘informing’ them what to do. Security guards even referred people to other cities. This became common practice across Türkiye, which is a concern considering security guards have no legal knowledge. In Marmara a person who had signed a voluntary return form wanted to apply again. Even though they had the right to re-apply, a security guard told them that they could not.[36]

In 2021, the registration system remained the biggest obstacle to accessing fundamental rights and services.[37] Registrations for temporary protection have been closed for over 6 years in bigger provinces. Family reunification has become difficult. After the recent increase in arrivals from Afghanistan, access to registration for international protection became almost impossible. People cannot live in the province where they are registered due to economic reasons and so go to bigger cities.[38] However, they can only access fundamental rights and services in satellite provinces.

One stakeholder estimated that 16 provinces were closed to international protection applications in 2021. Except for Ankara, all of the 16 closed provinces were on the coast (Aydın, Muğla, Bursa, Kocaeli, etc.). 15 provinces including Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, İzmir, and Hatay were closed to registration for temporary protection.[39] Another stakeholder included Şanlıurfa in the list of cities closed to registration.

In Van, for a long time it has also been impossible to access the procedures. Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan nationals (and other groups under international protection) cannot access asylum procedures in Van, which do not function at all. The PDMM does not accept applications. When asylum seekers try to approach PDMM, they are immediately put under administrative detention; some have even been pushed back directly. For example, a young woman entered Türkiye in 2021 with her passport, but her asylum application has not been accepted since September.

In the context of international protection, İstanbul, Ankara, and İzmir have been closed for registrations for about three years. Some cities like Ankara were closed to all registrations in 2021, including vulnerable groups. In İstanbul, they no longer accept vulnerable groups such as pregnant women as exceptional registrants. In Şanlıurfa, a 1-2-year-old toddler was not given a foreign identity card despite his family having registration.[40] In Central Anatolia the number of cities receiving international protection and temporary protection applications sharply decreased in 2021. Single men without vulnerabilities found it particularly difficult to register their application. Some cities in Central Anatolia, however, did prioritise applications from women who were victims of SGBV and who were able to access protection immediately. [41]

In İzmir one stakeholder reported that out of 300 international protection applications sent to the PDMM approximately seventy of them were called in and given an ID. The rest were not contacted at all. They also reported it was not possible to apply if the applicant spoke a language for which there was no translator or without the help of a lawyer. A young and single applicant, nine months pregnant, started her life in İzmir, but was transferred to Uşak. One person from an Iranian gay couple was registered and working in Eskişehir. The other had experienced trauma and had a report from a private psychiatrist that he should not be left alone. Despite this they were sent to Sivas as the satellite province. A lease contract is needed for the registration there but they could not find a house.

In big cities, officers in PDMMs write a city name on a post-it note and send applicants to other cities. People who can no longer register or whose registration has been canceled try to apply for a humanitarian residence permit. It is not possible to make an appointment online for residence applications. There is always a large group waiting in line for hours. There are Syrians who have been in Türkiye for over 10 years and have not been registered in any city. In one case, a sick child registered in Muğla was referred to a hospital in İstanbul, but he had to be registered in İstanbul to continue his treatment. An application was made to the juvenile court for an interim measure, but the judge did not take any action for 3-4 months, then asked for a pedagogical evaluation before rejecting the case because the child applicant was registered in Muğla.

Inconsistent practices among PDMMs are one of the biggest challenges in terms of registration and undermine access to registration in Türkiye. 29,256 persons registered for international protection in 2021 down slightly from 31,334 in 2020, so some registrations did take place.[42] Some groups may have been affected more than others. The negative attitude of the authorities in the PDMM usually is triggered when they think the individual fled to Türkiye for economic reasons or medical services.[43] In addition, PDMM practices change frequently. Sometimes even lawyers have difficulties accessing the PDMM buildings.[44] Because the system is so complex, there are rumours of corruption and bribery, including in İstanbul and Samsun.[45] Another stakeholder reported that registration had become ‘exceptional’ for nearly all groups. Regardless of the applicant’s vulnerabilities, the only way to access registration was by getting help or support from a known NGO or UNHCR.[46]

As the majority of those arriving in 2021 could not access registration, this meant they could not benefit from basic services. People in precarious situations isolate themselves and do not leave their houses in order not to encounter the police and be deported. IDs are taken away from people who have a deportation decision or are summoned to leave the country. After filing a lawsuit, their IDs are handed back, but their foreign identity numbers remain deactivated, meaning they also cannot access basic services like health and education. There are also problems if individuals go to other provinces without getting permission from PDMM and if they violate the signature obligations. Therefore, in addition to the difficulties in accessing registration, there are also problems in fulfilling reporting commitments.[47]

The EU launched a new project with Türkiye under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II) in 2021 to support the asylum-seeking processes. One component of the project is dedicated to strengthening RSD processes (including interviews, decisions, etc.), as well as to strengthen quality assurance processes within PMM. The project will support the PMM quality assurance board to ensure uniformity of treatment for applications in 81 cities.[48]

In early 2022, the previously unconfirmed ‘satellite city’ policy was publicly confirmed with the announcement of the ‘deconcentration policy.’[49] Neighborhoods with a 25% refugee density had already been completely closed to registration for the last two years, including Fatih and Esenyurt in İstanbul. From May 2022, it is against the law for any region or area in Türkiye to have a population of foreign nationals that is more than one-quarter of the total population. This includes both people who have made Türkiye their permanent home and those who are merely visiting the country. This rule has been given the name the 25 percent limit or the 25 percent rule. 781 neighbourhoods in different provinces are now closed to foreign nationals seeking address registrations for temporary protection, international protection, and residence permits, as well as changes to their city of residence if they are foreign nationals with residence permits or are under temporary or international protection, with the exception of newborns and instances of nuclear family reunification. Because of this, no non-Turkish national will be able to select any of these 781 neighborhoods in Türkiye as their registered address for official matters, nor will they be able to ask the authorities to change their address to any of these places.  Adana, Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, Muğla, and Antalya are some of the cities that fall into this category, along with a great number of others.[50]

The policy aims to transfer refugees from provinces with a high refugee density to areas with a lower density. From a legal perspective, it restricts freedom of both residence and travel which may not be a proportional response to concerns of public order particularly as those it effects are likely to remain under temporary protection status indefinitely. Transferring people to a city where they do not know anyone may also be unreasonable. It can have particularly devastating effects on vulnerable and marginalized groups such as LGBTI+. In addition, some of the regulations limiting fundamental rights and freedoms, especially for Syrian nationals, are foreseen in the Temporary Protection Regulation, not by law.[51]

 

Applications from detention and at the border

Where an application for international protection is presented to law enforcement agencies on the territory or at border gates, [52] the PDMM shall be notified “at once” and shall process the application.[53] Applications for international protection indicated by persons in detention shall also be notified to the PDMM “at once”.[54] In addition to Removal Centres for pre-removal detention on territory, there is one facility in the transit zone of Ankara Esenboğa Airport, which serve to detain persons intercepted in transit or during an attempt to enter Türkiye (see Place of Detention).

Persons whose international protection application is received whilst in detention are released from the Removal Centre or police station and are issued an Administrative Surveillance Decision Form (İdari Gözetim Kararı Sonlandırma Tebliğ Formu), also known as “T6”, requesting them to regularly report to a designated PDMM. This may or may not be the PDMM of their province of residence (see Alternatives to Detention).[55] The “T6” forms became more common in 2018.[56] In 2019 in Yalova and Karabük, there was a trend in forcing non-Syrians to get a T6 form to be appointed to a specific city.[57] In İstanbul, removal centres granted a travel permit with the T6 form in 2019 so there is no risk of detention or deportation whilst travelling to the referral city.[58]

Despite the legal safeguards provided by the LFIP to secure access to the asylum procedure, people in Removal Centres continue to encounter severe difficulties in having their applications for international protection registered by the PDMM.[59] In Van, an Iranian asylum seeker in the removal centre in 2019 received an interview date for 1.5 years later.[60] The situation was no easier in 2020 with COVID-19. Stakeholders were not aware of any application for international protection from a removal centre or at the border that was accepted in 2020.[61]

People in the removal centre in the Central Anatolia region were not provided information about applying for international protection unless they could access an NGO. NGOs advised clients to submit two petitions to the removal centre management, one to request a legal aid lawyer and the other to apply for international protection. These petitions were not forwarded to bar associations and legal aid centres, especially in Kayseri, although they were in Erzurum. There was a person in Kayseri whose petition to request a legal aid lawyer was disregarded 5 times before being successful on his 6th attempt.[62]

It can also be difficult to apply for international protection from a removal centre in the Marmara region. Legal notifications are not made to legal aid lawyers in writing so lawyers have to call the removal centre as often as they can. Cases are time sensitive, especially in accelerated procedures, yet in 2020 it was not possible to call removal centres every day due to the pandemic.[63] Malatya removal centre was also problematic for applications for protection.

Access to the procedure from detention also concerns persons readmitted by Türkiye. Whereas Article 64 RFIP entrusts the Ministry of Interior with the establishment of a separate framework of procedures for persons readmitted by Türkiye pursuant to readmission agreements, there has not been any such instrument regulating the access of readmitted persons to the international protection procedure to date.

In the context of the implementation of the EU-Türkiye statement between 4 April 2016 and 31 January 2020, Türkiye readmitted a total of 2,054 persons from Greece, of whom 738 originated from Pakistan, 373 from Syria, 204 from Algeria, 140 from Afghanistan, 127 from Iraq and 104 from Bangladesh.[64] PMM has established a specific code, “V89” entitled “Greece – return”, but stakeholders have not referred to this being used in practice. 139 people were readmitted from Greece in 2020.[65] Readmission operations were stopped as of 16 March 2020 and Türkiye was still not accepting readmissions as of April 2022 due to public health concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic.[66] See the AIDA Country Report: Greece 2021.

Reports on the post-return human rights situation of Syrians document serious human rights violations such as arbitrary detention and deportation without access to legal aid and international protection (see also Legal Assistance for Review of Detention).[67]

 

 

 

[1] Türkiye is administratively divided into 81 provinces. The provincial governorate is the highest administrative authority in each province. Therefore, provincial directorates of all government agencies report to the Office of the Governor. The agency responsible for registering all applications for international protection is the PDMM, which technically serves under the authority of the Provincial Governorate.

[2] Article 65(1) LFIP.

[3] Article 65(3) LFIP.

[4] Article 65(1) RFIP.

[5] Article 65(2) RFIP.

[6] Article 65(1) RFIP.

[7] Article 69(1) LFIP.

[8] Article 70(2) LFIP.

[9] For more details, see AIDA, Country Report Türkiye, 2017 Update, March 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2I1S9fS, pages 27-28.

[10] UNHCR, ‘UNHCR will end registration process in Türkiye on 10 September 2018’, available at: https://bit.ly/2HRy2FO.

[11] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2019.

[12] Article 70(4) RFIP.

[13] Article 66(2) RFIP.

[14] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.

[15] Information provided by a lawyer from the Van Bar Association, March 2020.

[16] Information provided by a stakeholder and a lawyer from the Van Bar Association, March 2020.

[17] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.

[18] Article 69(2)-(4) LFIP.

[19] Article 69(2) LFIP; Article 69(4) RFIP.

[20] Article 69(3) LFIP; Article 69(3) RFIP.

[21] Article 69(6) LFIP.

[22] Article 70(5) RFIP.

[23] Information provided by an NGO, February 2019.

[24] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[25] Article 65(5) RFIP.

[26] Article 70(6) RFIP.

[27] Article 70(7) RFIP.

[28] Article 76(1) LFIP, as amended by Article 35 Law No 7148 of 18 October 2018.

[29] Article 76(1) LFIP, as amended by Article 81 Law No 7196 of 24 December 2019.

[30] Article 76(2) LFIP.

[31] Article 76(1) LFIP, as amended by Article 81 Law No 7196 of 24 December 2019.

[32] Information provided by NGOs, February 2019.

[33]  A HES code (stands for Hayat Eve Sığar or Life Fits at Home) is the Turkish track-and-trace app to evaluate risk for COVID-19, see the HES code website: https://hayatevesigar.saglik.gov.tr/hes-eng.html.

[34] Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[35] Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[36] Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[37] Information provided by six stakeholders, April – May 2021.

[38] Information provided by two stakeholders, May 2022.

[39] Information from a stakeholder, May 2022.

[40] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[41] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[42] See PMM, International Protection, available at: http://bit.ly/3aV2b0H.

[43] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[44] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[45] Information provided by three stakeholders, May 2022.

[46] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[47] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[48] Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II), EU support to Home Affairs, ‘Reinforce effectiveness of national asylum procedures in compliance with international standards and national legislation’, available at:

[49] Ikamet, Türkiye Closes 781 Neighborhoods to Foreigners, Addresses, May 22, available in English at: https://bit.ly/3yjzRT7.

[50] PMM, ‘Neighbourhood Closure Announcement, 22 May 2022, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3Pb4bG8

[51] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[52] In Türkiye, while National Police exercises law enforcement duties in residential areas and at border gates, the gendarmerie exercises police duties outside the residential areas.

[53] Article 65(2) LFIP.

[54] Article 65(5) LFIP.

[55] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2019.

[56] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2019.

[57] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.

[58] Information provided by a stakeholder in İstanbul, March 2020.

[59] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2019; a lawyer of the İstanbul Bar Association, February 2019; a lawyer of the Antakya Bar Association, March 2019.

[60] Information provided by a lawyer from the Van Bar Association, March 2020.

[61] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2021.

[62] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2021.

[63] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2021.

[64] UNHCR, Returns from Greece to Türkiye, 31 January 2020, available at:  http://bit.ly/38XgArI.

[66] International Rescue Committee, ‘What is the EU-Türkiye deal?,’ 18 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3y46cOA.

[67] Koc University, An overview of the EU-Türkiye Deal, April 2019: http://bit.ly/33oZLol.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation