According to the LFIP, foreign nationals who seek legal stay in Turkey are required to obtain a residence permit. There are 6 types of residence permits available to foreign nationals. Neither the International Protection Status Holder Identification Document issued to international protection status holders nor the Temporary Protection Identification Document issued to beneficiaries of Temporary Protection are identified as “residence permits” as such in Turkish law. The LFIP does not envision the granting of residence permits to either international protection status holders or beneficiaries of temporary protection.
The law instead identifies these categories of foreign nationals to be “exempt from the residence permit requirement” that applies to other categories of foreign nationals. They are instead envisioned to stay in Turkey on the basis of open-ended international protection status documents respectively. The International Protection Status Holder Identification Document “shall substitute a residence permit” within the meaning of being equivalent to residence permit for the person concerned in the sense of authorising legal stay in Turkey.
Previously refugees were granted an International Protection Status Holder Identification Document with a validity period of 3 years, conditional refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were issued a document valid for 1 year. However, these provisions were amended on 24 December 2019. For those who are granted conditional refugee, subsidiary protection and international protection status, an identity document including foreign identity number is issued. The duration of validity of these documents, along with the rules on format and content, is to be determined by the Ministry of Interior.
Therefore, in summary, it should be concluded that the law stops short of offering clear legislative guidance as to the duration of legal stay envisioned for international protection status holders regardless of what types of international protection the person concerned was granted. International Protection Status Holder Identification Document granted to status holders are to “remain valid until terminated by DGMM”. That is, the discretion to terminate an International Protection Status Holder Identification Document and thereby the actual duration of legal stay afforded by an international protection status are left to the discretion of DGMM.
By default, in light of the non-refoulement obligation guaranteed by Article 4 LFIP and in the absence of Cessation or Withdrawal procedures, it is unclear whether there can be any other circumstances under which the International Protection Status Holder Identification Document issued to an international protection status holder may be justifiably terminated.
On the other hand, from the vantage point of an international protection beneficiary, since the International Protection Status Holder Identification Document cannot lead to Long-Term Residence in Turkey and since time spent in Turkey on the basis of an International Protection Status Holder Identification Document cannot count towards the fulfilment of the 5-year uninterrupted legal residence requirement for Naturalisation, the legislative framework in Turkey fails to offer international protection status holders any prospect of long term legal integration in Turkey.
This approach adopted in LFIP and reinforced by the RFIP should be interpreted as an extension of Government of Turkey’s ongoing “geographical limitation” policy in relation to its obligations under 1951 Refugee Convention.
In Istanbul in 2020 there was a leniency regarding the grant of residence permits during the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020, the PDMM issued a circular recalling those whose residence permit applications had been denied but who could not leave Istanbul due to the pandemic to reapply for a permit. Later, even those not originally included in the criteria were encouraged to apply for temporary residency. This policy was applied between August 2020 and January 2021. The PDMM imposed a re-application fee. Some applications resulted positively, but the exact number of persons concerned is not available. The PDMM mainly applied this policy for economic purposes, and to document the number of unregistered people.