Identification

Turkey

Country Report: Identification Last updated: 31/05/21

Author

Independent

According to the law, the “persons with special needs” category includes “unaccompanied minors, handicapped persons, elderly, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of torture, rape and other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.”[1]

Neither the LFIP nor the RFIP include LGBTI persons in the list of categories of “persons with special needs”. Difficulties have been reported in practice with regard to the way in which applicants are interviewed about issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity, ranging from inappropriate terminology or offensive questions to verbal abuse during registration interviews.[2] In one LGBTI case Kastamonu PDMM asked for a medical report to prove that the applicant was a LGBTI person.[3]

Screening of vulnerability

RFIP states that it “shall be primarily determined” whether the applicant is a person with special needs.[4] The PDMM are required to make an assessment during registration whether the applicant belongs in one of the categories of “persons with special needs”, and to make a note in the applicant’s registration form if he or she has been identified as such. An applicant may also be identified as a “person with special needs” later on in the procedure.[5]

According to the law, DGMM may cooperate with relevant public institutions, international organisations and NGOs for the treatment of persons subjected to torture or serious violence.[6]

No official mechanism for the identification of vulnerabilities in the asylum procedure has been established to date. Under the previous Registration system, the joint registration interview conducted by UNHCR / SGDD-ASAM enabled the detection of specific needs of the applicant, which were then taken into consideration inter alia in the assignment of a “satellite city” in close coordination with the DGMM Headquarters (see Freedom of Movement). Following the transition to exclusive registration by DGMM, it is not clear how the PDMM assess special needs in practice.[7] Nevertheless, UNHCR still refers vulnerable cases to the PDMM to prioritise registration. In 2019 assessments of applicants’ vulnerabilities and their registration were very slow.[8] Difficulties in access to all procedures were compounded in 2020 due to COVID-19. There was complete lockdown from mid-March and from April to June. Those who were not in professions that were allowed to work could only leave their houses during limited hours for exercise. Those with poor health were isolating for most of 2020. Refugees and people seeking international protection were often short of masks and hygiene equipment that was given to them sporadically by NGOs, UNHCR and others.

Age assessment of unaccompanied children

While the LFIP does not contain any provisions on age assessment, the RFIP provides guidance regarding the role of age assessment in the identification of unaccompanied children applicants. The Regulation states that where the applicant claims to be of minor age, but does not possess any identity documents indicating his or her age, the governorates shall conduct a “comprehensive age determination” consisting of a physical and psychological assessment.[9] The applicant shall be notified as to the reason of this referral and the age assessment proceedings that will be undertaken.[10]

If the age assessment exercise indicates without a doubt that the applicant is 18 years of age or older, he or she shall be treated as an adult. If the age assessment fails to establish conclusively whether the applicant is above or below 18 years of age, the applicant’s reported age shall be accepted to be true.

While neither the LFIP nor the RFIP make any provisions regarding the methods to be used in age assessment examinations on international protection applicants, according to the guidelines of the State Agency for Forensic Medicine, for the purpose of age assessment examinations, physical examination and radiography data of the person (including of elbows, wrists, hands, shoulders, pelvis and teeth) are listed as primary sources of evaluation. No reference is made to any psycho-social assessment of the person. Also, according to the (then) Ministry of Family and Social Policies’ 2015 Directive on unaccompanied children, the PDMM issue a medical report on the physical condition of the children before placing them in Ministry premises.[11]

In practice, bone tests are applied to assess the age of unaccompanied children referred to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services to be taken into care.[12] The accuracy of tests on the jawbone can range between +2/-2 years older or younger. If a test result indicates a child is aged 16 give or take two years, then the authorities still tend to interpret the assessment at the upper threshold.[13]

To stop this practice, previous legal actions from the Ankara Bar Association and SGDD-ASAM have obtained protection orders for children in order to secure their placement in public institutions for children.[14] If the bone test determines the child to be younger than 17, the Ministry can also conduct a psychosocial assessment.

When children are caught attempting to illegally leave the country, the ID from their country of origin or the ID they are provided with while in Turkey is used to determine their age. If the child has no documentation, officials assign the child an age according to the child’s appearance and behavior. If the child is not sure of their age or says they are 17, they get documented as 18. African children are often recorded as 18, even at the age of 16, as they reportedly look more mature. In these cases, they are wrongly taken into administrative detention. In Izmir, there are two first admissions units (ilk kabul birimi) in Bornova and Buca; one for boys and one for girls. Children who are documented as a child are directly transferred to these first admission units. For boys, there is an open-door system – they can leave whenever they want. For girls, a relative needs accompany them out. Unit officers generally try to contact their relatives through their ID. Boys usually leave the institution on the same day. There was a recent case of 7-8 Somalian girls. Authorities in the first admission unit handed the girls to 3 adult men who said that they were relatives without providing documentation. The Somalian girls were later found working in the textile sector. The situation of these children is usually not followed. The admission unit has limited capacity and the children themselves do not want to stay in these units due to poor living conditions.[15]

It can be very difficult to know whether a child is in a removal centre or not. This information is not shared with NGOs due to the KVKK (Personal Data Protection Act). Erzurum removal centre has often claimed that they are not children but adults. The removal centre requests a document from the child’s country of origin proving that the child is not an adult but this process takes more than 1 month. Even when the families provide the documents, the removal centre can reject them due to a missing notary stamp or the lack of a stamp of the Consulate. Erzurum removal centre tends to register all children’s age as 18+.[16]

[1]        Article 3(1)(l) LFIP.

[2]        Kaos GL, Waiting to be “safe and sound”: Turkey as an LGBTI refugees’ way station, July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2ynEqdO, 33-37.

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

[4]        Article 113(1) RFIP.

[5]        Article 113(2) RFIP.

[6]        Article 113(3) RFIP.

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

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

[9]       Article 123(2)(b) RFIP.

[10]      Article 123(2)(c) RFIP.

[11]      Article 6 Ministry of Family and Social Policies Directive No 152065 on Unaccompanied Children.

[12]      Information provided by a lawyer from the Ankara Bar Association, March 2019.

[13]       Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2020.

[14]      See e.g. 3rd Children’s Court of Ankara, Decision 2017/712, 29 December 2017 based on Article 9 Law No 4395 on Child Protection.

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

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

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