Civil registration of child-birth
Birth registration is both a right and an obligation for foreigners including beneficiaries of international protection. Births that take place in Turkey need to be notified to the Population and Civil Registry Departments under the Governorates. Notification shall be done by the mother, father or legal guardian of the child. In the absence of parents or a legal guardian, the child’s grandmother, grandfather, adult siblings or other persons accompanying the child shall notify the Population and Civil Registry Departments.
The notification needs to be made to the Population and Civil Registry Departments within 30 days. After birth registration, a birth certificate will be issued for the child. The registration process and the issuance of the certificate are free of charge.
Reporting the birth of the child to the PDMM is important as the child will be issued with an identity document certifying his or her legal status in Turkey. Registration enables children to access rights such as education and health care. Birth registration proves the age of the child and protects the child from being vulnerable to protection risks such as trafficking, child labour, child marriage, illegal adoption and sexual exploitation. Birth registration also proves the parental linkage between the child and the parents and protects the unity of the family. It can also help family reunification of the child with the parents in the future in case of family separation.
The language barrier has an impact on child-birth registration in practice.
Civil registration of marriage
Turkish law is applied for all marriage procedures for international protection beneficiaries and applicants. Under Turkish law, a Turkish national and an applicant or beneficiary or two applicants or beneficiaries of different nationalities can be married by the Turkish authorities. All marriages carried out by the Turkish authorities are subject to the Turkish Civil Code and related regulations.
Marriages are conducted by marriage officers at the Marriage Departments of municipalities. Couples intending to marry therefore need to submit the relevant documents to municipalities. Relevant documents are:
- Petition of the marriage: the couple must file a petition of marriage (evlenme beyannamesi), signed by both individuals applying to marry;
- Celibacy document certifying that the applicants are not already married;
- Medical report confirming that the applicants are free from diseases that would prevent them from getting married;
- International protection applicant registration document; international protection applicant identity document or international protection status holder identity document;
- Four photographs.
Non-official marriages are not recognised in Turkey. A religious marriage (carried out by imams) is only permitted after the official marriage.
In Antakya a new problem arose in 2019 linked to the data verification process (see section on Temporary protection identification document). It was revealed that some people had lied about their marital status, particularly single women to protect themselves from potential threats. A problem then occurred when the women really wanted to get married. This is a legally unresolved problem unfortunately that has meant people have tried to produce fake divorce or marriage documents. In Antakya, there has been an explosion in this type of fake documents. The courts only accept documents sealed by the Syrian consulate in Istanbul and apostilled by DGMM. For the others, the public prosecutors open investigations based on ‘forgery of official documents’ and PDMM issues deportation decisions.
The number of lawsuits on the correction of civil records increased after the data verification process. As an example, a lawsuit was opened regarding a child who was registered with the wrong family. The court asked for registration documents showing that the child belongs to the Syrian family, but the latter was not able to receive such documents by an official authority in Idlib, where they came from. In civil rights matters, there are a lot of counterfeited document circulating but people often have no other choice but to resort to counterfeit documents because the public authorities do not issue the necessary documents. The only document accepted by the courts is the one sealed by the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul. Opponents of the Syrian authorities are afraid to go to the Consulate, however.
In 2020, registrations of births and marriages were one of the only services that was not interrupted despite COVID-19. Regional PDMMs now process data updates (civil status matters such as changing the marital status, registration of a new born etc.) over an electronic appointment system called E-Randevu. People can get an appointment by ringing 157 or goc.net.org. An appointment system is in place in big cities such as Gaziantep, Urfa, and Hatay where there are large refugee populations. In small cities such as Kahramanmaras and Malatya, people can apply without an appointment. Appointment schedules depend on the province and may sometimes be very busy. There were reports of refugees giving bribes to get an appointment in Adana and Gaziantep, as the waiting period for an appointment could reached up to 2-3 months, except in urgent cases. This waiting time is one month in Adana. This system is used for data updates only.