Safe third country


Country Report: Safe third country Last updated: 11/01/22



For a country to be considered a “safe third country”, the following conditions must apply:[1]

  • The lives and freedoms of persons are not in danger on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership to a particular social group or political opinion;
  • The principle of non-refoulement of persons to countries, in which they will be subject to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, is implemented;
  • The applicant has an opportunity to apply for refugee status in the country, and in case he or she is granted refugee status by the country authorities, he or she has the possibility of obtaining protection in compliance with the 1951 Refugee Convention;

(ç)   The applicant does not incur any risk of being subjected to serious harm.”

For a country to be considered a “safe third country” for an applicant, an individual evaluation must be carried out, and due consideration must be given to “whether the existing links between the applicant and the third country are of a nature that would make the applicant’s return to that country reasonable.”[2]

Article 77(2) RFIP provides additional interpretative guidance as to the interpretation of the “reasonable link” criterion, by requiring at least one of the following conditions to apply:

  • The applicant has family members already established in the third country concerned;
  • The applicant has previously lived in the third country concerned for purposes such as work, education, long-term settlement;
  • The applicant has firm cultural links to the country concerned as demonstrated for example by his or her ability to speak the language of the country at a good level;

(ç)  The applicant has previously been in the county concerned for long term stay purposes as opposed to merely for the purpose of transit.

At present, there is no publicly available information as to whether DGMM currently subscribes or will in the future subscribe to a categorical ‘list approach’ in making safe country determinations on international protection applicants. However, the LFIP and the RFIP require an individualised assessment as to whether a particular third country can be considered a “safe third country” for a specific applicant.

There are cases in the Turkish courts applying the safe third country concept, although there is no list of safe third countries in Turkey. This issue is mainly assessed by the administrative courts. The risk when the safe third country concept is applied is that the refugee applicant does not know which country is considered safe by Turkey and the court does not determine in the ruling which country the applicant can be sent to. This assessment is made by DGMM.[3] In Izmir, for example, deportation decisions do not state a safe third country for non-Syrians.[4]

It is thought that in practice, the DGMM currently considers Iran and Pakistan to be safe third countries for Afghans entering Turkey.[5] In 2019 in Antakya the safe third country concept was applied to non-Syrians, for whom Morocco was deemed to be the safe third country.[6] In one deportation case examined in Hatay a woman’s application for protection was accepted due to a lack of assessment of any specific safe third country.[7] An Uzbek woman had entered Turkey irregularly from Syria claiming that she was forced to go to Syria by her husband but then had to leave Idlib with her two children. If sent back there was a risk of persecution. The Court noted that the deportation decision did not which specify a country just a ‘safe third country’. As she could not be returned to Syria, she could not be deported.[8]

In 2020 there was a significant change in deportation decisions regarding Syrians in Izmir with PDMMs issuing deportation decisions to a safe third country. Deportation to the country of origin is only possible if the refugee requests it. As of the end of 2019 deportations were not executed to the country of origin but were considered to third countries.  Countries where there was active conflict such as Yemen, Palestine, and Egypt were not considered safe. This practice has caused problems. Syrians can only be deported to a safe third country. However, they are being held at removal centres because there is no safe third country willing to accept them. In addition, in the deportation decisions themselves, the term safe third country is mentioned, but a specific country is not usually specified. Izmir Administrative Court cancels deportation decisions where the third safe country is not shown on the deportation order because the court cannot assess the safe third country if it is not indicated.[9]

In Izmir, in an administrative case pending by late 2020 a new practice was observed. PDMM used a new form for the evaluation of a safe third country where Syrians could be deported. On this form, four countries are determined as safe countries for Syrians: Iran, Sudan, Haiti, and Micronesia. This form is being signed by refugees. As of April 2021, there was no information of Syrians being deported to Iran or another country based on this document. [10]



[1]           Article 74 LFIP. The wording resembles the EU definition in Article 38 recast Asylum Procedures Directive.

[2]           Article 74(3) LFIP.

[3]           Information provided by a lawyer from the Ankara Bar Association, February 2020.

[4]           Information provided by a lawyer from the Izmir Bar Association, March 2020.

[5]           Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2018.

[6]           Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, February 2020.

[7]           Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, February 2020.

[8]           Hatay First instance administrative court 2019/480, decision number 2019/1292.

[9]         Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[10]       Information from 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