Registration of the asylum application

Turkey

Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 31/05/21

Author

Independent

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’s written approval needs to be taken.

According to the law, for applicants who are physically unable to approach the PDMM premises for the purpose of 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] UNHCR announced on 10 September 2018 the termination of its registration activities in Turkey.[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”). DGMM 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 DGMM.[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 DGMM 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 seemed to be to leave people unregistered and thus push them to leave Turkey, 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, experiences after departure from country of origin, travel route, mode of arrival in Turkey, 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]

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 Turkey, as well as any special needs of the applicant.[24] 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.[25] A printed version of the registration form filled in electronically is also handed to the applicant.[26]

The law states that the applicant will receive an International Protection Applicant Identification Card upon completion of registration.[27] The renewal and extension of International Protection Applicant Identification Card is identified by the Ministry.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] 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). As of 24 December 2019 the obligation to renew Identification Cards every six months was abolished.[31]

Registrations of international/temporary protection were suspended from March to June 2020 in almost every city in Turkey 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 Izmir.[32] In Istanbul 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.[33] 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 DGMM.[34]

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 Istanbul without registration. Refugees tried to go to provinces of registration without a road permit and in violation their signature obligations, however, they could not get registered. Refugees in Izmir, Mugla, Aydin, the Marmara Region and Central Anatolia have 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 Turkey, 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.[35]

Times to register for international protection depended on the office and were as follows:

Registration appointments for the international protection procedure in 2020
Within a week Adana, Amasya, Bursa, Erzurum, Kırşehir, Mersin, Sivas
1 month Ankara, Çanakkale, Konya, Malatya, Manisa Isparta, Samsun, Trabzon
Between 2 and 6 months Denizli, İzmir, Kayseri, Mardin, Nevşehir, Niğde, Van
Longer than 6 months Balıkesir, Çorum, Sakarya, Şanlıurfa
Unknown Kahramanmaraş and Konya

Source: Information from a stakeholder after interviews in the field, provided in March 2021.

In 2020, lawyers in Istanbul worked on numerous cases of corrections to registration documents through the legal aid system. There were cases relating to registration of children and their custody. There were also cases where the surname of the person was written incorrectly in the records, or when a married person is documented as single, or a single person is documented as married. These were mistakes that PDMMs had made at the time of registration.[36]

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, [37] the PDMM shall be notified “at once” and shall process the application.[38] Applications for international protection indicated by persons in detention shall also be notified to the PDMM “at once”.[39] 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 Turkey (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).[40] The “T6” forms became more common in 2018.[41] In 2019 in Yalova and Karabuk, there was a trend in forcing non-Syrians to get a T6 form to be appointed to a specific city.[42] In Istanbul 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.[43]

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.[44] In Van an Iranian asylum seeker in the removal centre in 2019 received an interview date for 1.5 years later.[45]

The situation was no easier in 2020 given the problems with COVID-19. Stakeholders are not aware of any application for international protection from a removal centre or at the border that was accepted in 2020.[46]

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.[47]

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.[48] Malatya removal centre was also problematic for applications for protection.

Access to the procedure from detention also concerns persons readmitted by Turkey. Whereas Article 64 RFIP entrusts the Ministry of Interior with the establishment of a separate framework of procedures for persons readmitted by Turkey 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-Turkey statement between 4 April 2016 and 31 January 2020, Turkey 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.[49] DGMM 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.[50] Readmission operations were stopped as of 16 March 2020 and Turkey was still not accepting readmissions as of April 2021 due to public health concerns and the Covid-19 pandemic. [51] See the AIDA Country Report: Greece 2020.

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).[52]

[1]        Turkey 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 Turkey, 2017 Update, March 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2I1S9fS, 27-28.

[10]       UNHCR, ‘UNHCR will end registration process in Turkey 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]       Article 65(5) RFIP.

[25]       Article 70(6) RFIP.

[26]       Article 70(7) RFIP.

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

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

[29]       Article 76(2) LFIP.

[30]       Information provided by NGOs, February 2019.

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

[32]       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.

[33]       Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[34]       Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[35]       Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

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

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

[38]       Article 65(2) LFIP.

[39]       Article 65(5) LFIP.

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

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

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

[43]       Information provided by a stakeholder in Istanbul, March 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of main changes since the previous report update
  • Introduction to the asylum context in Turkey
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • Temporary Protection Regime
  • Content of Temporary Protection