Conditions in detention facilities

Turkey

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 31/05/21

Author

Independent

All Removal Centres in Turkey are under the authority of DGMM and each centre is managed by a director.[1] The LFIP makes no explicit provision on conditions of detention of applicants for international protection. However, Article 4 of the Removal Centres Regulation provides that “The establishment, operation and operation of the Centres and the fulfilment of the services to be provided under this Regulation shall be carried out according to the following principles and procedures:

 

  1. Protection of the right to life;
  2. Human-centred approach;
  3. Observing the best interests of the unaccompanied child;
  4. Priority to applicants having special needs;
  5. Confidentiality of personal information;
  6. Informing the persons concerned about the operations to be performed;
  7. Social and psychological strengthening of the housing;
  8. Respect for the freedom of beliefs and worship of the people
  9. Providing services to the residents without discrimination based on language, race, colour, sex, political thought, philosophical belief, religion, sect and similar reasons.”

Removal Centres are required to provide among others: accommodation and food; security; emergency and basic health care services; psychological and social support.[2] A series of judgments from the Constitutional Court against detention in Istanbul (Kumkapı), now closed, have highlighted the need to provide adequate detention conditions in Turkey.[3]

In 2017, in line with the monitoring provisions of the Regulation,[4] DGMM instructed all the mayoralties managing a Removal Centre to set up dedicated Migration Commissions comprising of experts, academics, civil society, officials from health and education institutions and municipality representatives, tasked with regular visits to the centres. The composition of the commission depends entirely on each mayoralty. Generally, Türk Kızılay is present in these commissions.[5] In 2019, NGOs could still in theory be invited to attend the commissions by governorates but it became extremely rare. There is not enough information to know whether these commissions are active or not.

In 2020 the Constitutional Court ruled that a Kazak detainee had been subject to torture in Erzurum removal centre after being held in solitary confinement for 10 days. He was awarded 30,000 TL (i.e. approx. 3,000 EUR) for non-pecuniary damages.[6]

Material conditions in detention

Conditions in Removal Centres vary from one facility to another. In 2020 the density in removal centres was lower compared to 2019 due to the effect of Covid-19 and DGMM applied quarantine measures prior to detention in removal centres for 10 or 14 days.

Recent observations of detention conditions in selected centres include the following:

Izmir (Harmandalı): The centre has capacity for 750 persons in a total of 126 rooms located in two blocks, “Block A” and “Block B”. “Block A” accommodates mainly single adults and persons under a YTS code, while families are detained in “Block B”.[7] There are two separate rooms for persons with disabilities accessible by lift. Each room has six beds and is equipped with a bathroom and toilet. Some of the rooms require repair, while no curtains are provided. In addition, heat and humidity adversely affect living conditions in the centre.[8] While rooms are cleaned every day, the family units have faced bug infestation which has led to allergies in children.[9] The centre is equipped with a gym, a library, two spaces for religious practice, two playgrounds, television and internet stations, as well as a tailor and a hairdresser.

During a visit of the Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2018, the centre held 475 persons. Of those, 51 were women of whom three pregnant women, 36 children, two elderly persons, one LGBTI person. A total of 172 persons under a YTS code were detained in the centre.[10] In 2019 there were up to 1,000 people held at the centre at any one time, so sometimes it was over capacity with no plans to build extra capacity in Izmir.[11] During the pandemic, a report by the Izmir Bar Association Commission on Migration and Asylum noted several human rights violations occurring in the Harmandalı Removal Centre from 18 March to 13 April 2020. According to the report, refugees were not kept in places which can be described as “quarantine”. As of the end of March, 12-15 refugees were staying in a single room. The number of refugees accommodated on the same floor was approximately 200. Rooms were cleaned by the refugees themselves, not the staff. Sanitary products (masks, gloves, sanitizers etc.) were not provided by the removal centre. Access to doctors was severely limited. There was a bug causing swelling and itching of the skin. However, the authorities did not respond to complaints.[12]

Erzurum: Two Removal Centres are established in a large complex: GGM 1 has four blocks for detained persons and GGM 2 has two blocks. Each centre has a separate block for offices and administration.[13] Each centre has a capacity of 750 places.[14] Women are accommodated on the top floor of GGM 2.[15] Bedrooms accommodate six people on average and include a bathroom and toilet, although they have no curtains.[16] During its visit in 2018, the Human Rights and Equality Commission identified shortcomings such as clogged toilets and leaks, broken sinks, toilet doors and door handles, ceilings damaged by humidity, and a lack of adequate ventilation.[17] It also witnessed interruptions in the provision of hot water in GGM 2.[18]

GGM 1 has a playground and football, basketball and volleyball courts, a cafeteria, prayer rooms,[19] playrooms for children, a library, an internet room which is not accessible to detainees, a projector room, a hairdresser and barber shop, while GGM 2 has a playground and similar indoor facilities.[20] Some persons complained that they were not allowed outdoor access in GGM 2 on some days and that the sports facilities were not accessible.[21] During a visit of the Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2018, a total of 1,157 people were detained, of whom 627 in GGM 1 and 530 in GGM 2. 16 children, 14 women, one elderly person and one disabled person were detained.[22]

Gaziantep (Oğuzeli): Physical conditions in the facility are improving. Families are held together. However, a riot took place following a suicide of an Afghan national in the centre in February 2019. Lawyers from the Migration and Asylum Commission of the Gaziantep Bar Association inquired about the incident but were not provided with information by the management of the centre. The association later established that detainees had gone on hunger strike in the centre.[23]

Istanbul: Women are generally detained in the Selimpaşai Removal Centre, while men are held in Binkılıç.[24]

Antalya: People are held in cells that can be locked from the inside. Men and women are accommodated separately.[25]

Çanakkale: Conditions have been reported to be adequate overall.[26]

Hatay: Lawyers have received reports of substandard conditions. Persons have no access to showers or hot water, and only have 40 minutes of outdoor access.[27]

Kayseri: The centre has capacity for 750 persons and started operating in 2016.[28] Rooms have bunkbeds and are equipped with a cupboard, bathroom and toilet.[29] There are also two rooms for disabled persons, accessible by lift.[30] The walls, rooms and linen were found to be generally in good condition during a visit of the Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2018.[31] However, ventilation and hot water supply have been noticed as inadequate.[32]

The facility has a prayer room, a library, a gym and a computer room.[33] During the visit of the Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2018, the centre held 630 persons, including 18 women, 59 children and two disabled persons.[34] Due to the rapid turnover of persons, the centre has not exceeded its capacity.[35] If there are no available places in the centre, people are transferred to other Removal Centres such as Kırikkale or Çankırı.[36]

In Van a lawyer said the conditions are better in prisons than in the removal centre because people have the right to access books and other items in prisons. For instance, a Norwegian journalist client in a removal centre could not access medicines and books so decided to voluntarily return to Norway.[37]

In Ankara detained people have complained about low quality food, access to medicine and severe cold.[38]Another facility exists in Esenboğa Airport in Ankara. People have access to the internet and a phone, water and food during their stay in the airport.[39]

Staff, health care and special needs

Detainees shall be provided “urgent and basic health care services which cannot be afforded by the person concerned”.[40] Also, access to psycho-social support service is possible.[41]

In Izmir (Harmandalı), a monitoring visit of the Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2018 noted that there is one psychologist, 2 social workers and 2 teachers present in the centre, as well as one doctor and 5 health staff.[42] However, most detainees reported being unaware of the presence of the psychologist.[43] The Commission also expressed concerns about the lack of emergency response kits in the infirmary of the centre during its visit.[44]

Kayseri has one social worker, four teachers and one doctor.[45] In Erzurum, a doctor is available from 08:00 to 17:00 and nurses work in shifts.[46]

Activities in Removal Centres vary across the country. In Erzurum, for example, detained Afghan children were able to access education in 2018.[47] The same was reported in Izmir (Harmandalı), although a standard training programme is applied to children regardless of age or nationality.[48] In Antalya, detained children cannot access education but psycho-social support is available in the Removal Centre.[49]

There have been allegations of ill-treatment against detainees by staff such as security guards in Izmir (Harmandalı).[50] In Antalya, a Syrian national was tortured by officers in the Removal Centre in June 2018 and later transferred to the Gaziantep Removal Centre, all the while suffering physical violence during the transfer.[51] Incidents of violence, handcuffing and pressure to apply for “voluntary return” from guards have also been reported in Hatay.[52] Similar complaints were reported from applicants or foreigners released from Gaziantep. These especially referred to ill-treatment against persons with a YTS code, including barriers to their access to water and hygiene.[53] According to lawyers, poor detention conditions in Removal Centres are likely to be used as a tool to pressure migrants into opting for voluntary return.

 

 

 

[1]        Article 11 Removal Centres Regulation.

[2]        Article 14(1) Removal Centres Regulation.

[3]        Constitutional Court, F.A. and M.A., Application No 2013/655, Judgment of 20 January 2016; A.V., Application No 2013/1649, Judgment of 20 January 2016; T.T., Application No 2013/8810, Judgment of 18 February 2016; A.S., Application No 2014/2841, Judgment of 9 June 2016; I.S., Application No 2014/15824, Judgment of 22 September 2016.

[4]        Article 16 Removal Centres Regulation.

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

[6]        Y.K case, 2016/14347, 2 June 2020.

[7]        Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, İzmir Harmandalı Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/18, December 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2UOmJjI, paras 11-12 and 20.

[8]        Ibid, paras 21-26.

[9]        Ibid, para 28.

[10]       Ibid, paras 19-20.

[11]       Information from a lawyer from the Izmir Bar Association.

[12]       İzmir Harmandalı Geri Gönderme Merkezi Korona Pandemisi Raporu, 18 March – 13 April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3uzkXof.

[13]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Erzurum Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/16, December 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2UJjyKd.

[14]       Ibid, para 24.

[15]       Ibid, para 28.

[16]       Ibid, para 29. The administration building has curtains, however.

[17]       Ibid, paras 30, 35-36.

[18]       Ibid, para 32.

[19]       According to the Commission, people reported being unable to use the room: Ibid, para 37.

[20]       Ibid, paras 12-13.

[21]       Ibid, paras 49-51.

[22]       Ibid, paras 24-25.

[23]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Gaziantep Bar Association, February 2019.

[24]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Istanbul Bar Association, February 2019.

[25]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Antalya Bar Association, March 2019.

[26]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Ankara Bar Association, February 2018.

[27]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Izmir Bar Association, February 2018.

[28]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Kayseri Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/14, November 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2HLRi62, paras 10-13.

[29]       Ibid, para 23.

[30]       Ibid, para 25.

[31]       Ibid, paras 32-34.

[32]       Ibid, para 52.

[33]       Ibid, para 51.

[34]       Ibid, paras 14-15.

[35]       Ibid, para 24.

[36]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Kayseri Bar Association, February 2019.

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

[38]       Information provided by a lawyer from the Ankara Bar Association, March 2020.

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

[40]       Article 14(1) Removal Centres Regulation.

[41]       Article 14(2) Removal Centres Regulation.

[42]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, İzmir Harmandalı Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/18, December 2018, para 18.

[43]       Ibid, para 37.

[44]       Ibid, para 44.

[45]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Kayseri Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/14, November 2018, para 19.

[46]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Erzurum Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/16, December 2018, para 52.

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

[48]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, İzmir Harmandalı Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/18, December 2018, para 53.

[49]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Antalya Bar Association, March 2019.

[50]       Turkish Human Rights and Equality Commission, İzmir Harmandalı Geri Gönderme Merkezi Ziyareti, 2018/18, December 2018, paras 32-33.

[51]       Information provided by a lawyer of the Antalya Bar Association, March 2019.

[52]       See e.g. Dev Haber, ‘Antep Geri Gönderme Merkezin’de mülteciler ters kelepçeleniyor’, 25 December 2017, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2ETCOwC.

[53]       Information provided by a lawyer of the the Gaziantep Bar Association, March 2018.

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