Detention of vulnerable applicants


Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 11/01/22



Unaccompanied children international protection applicants should be categorically excluded from detention, since they must be placed in appropriate accommodation facilities under the authority of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services.[1] In practice, however, unaccompanied children often declare being over the age of 18 to avoid separation from their group.[2] Unaccompanied minors are still kept in removal centres in border cities especially in Van.[3] In Gaziantep, families are generally kept together although there have been some cases where unaccompanied children were deported alone.[4]

According to the law, children at risk and children convicted of an offence should be transferred to Child Support Centres (Çocuk Destek Merkezleri, ÇODEM).[5] However, concerns remain regarding the number of children – usually beggars or street vendors – arbitrarily detained in police stations.[6]

Children with their families are generally detained.[7] In 2017, “G89” codes, corresponding to foreign terrorist fighters were issued to infants detained with their families in Izmir (Harmandalı), thereby illustrating a lack of individualised assessment prior to ordering detention. The Izmir Bar Association and members of the Grand National Assembly expressed concerns about this practice, all the more so since the coding system applied by the authorities has no legal basis.[8] Cases of children, as well as elderly people being issued YTS codes continue to be witnessed in different provinces.[9]

In 2019 in Antakya children held in removal centres with their families could access health services but not education. There was one case of a family from Iraq with four children held in the removal centre whose appeal against deportation was rejected by Yozgat 1st Administrative Court and they were transferred to Hatay removal centre. They did not sign the voluntary return form. The children could not access to education from the removal centre. One of the children needed access to health care due to her disability but she could not access it.[10]

In Izmir in 2019 the practice towards vulnerable groups was not sensitive at all in the removal centre. Generally young men are held in the removal centre but there can also be exceptional cases. For instance, children with their mother, pregnant women have been held in removal centre and there was a case of a victim of human trafficking held in the removal centre and then deported.[11] The Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard can record children as being older than 18 without conducting a comprehensive age determination. Some refugees who appear to be over 18 in official documents are often children under 18 years old.[12] In Antakya, two people from Morocco, victims of human trafficking were deported to Morocco.[13]

LGBTI persons are at particular risk of detention when apprehended outside their assigned province. Moreover, sex workers and (potential) victims of trafficking are also a category of persons detained in Removal Centres for reasons of public order and public health under Article 57 LFIP, though not necessarily engaging with the international protection procedure. Women from countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are often held in Removal Centres of Edirne, Izmir (Harmandalı) and Aydın. In one judgment, the 2nd Magistrates’ Court Aydın upheld a detention order on grounds of “public security” issued to eight foreign women who were informally working in a night club.[14] LGBTI people are generally not held in removal centres in Gaziantep.[15]

Persons with health conditions are also detained in Removal Centres. In a case of an elderly asylum seeker who had suffered a heart attack, the ECtHR rejected a request for interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court to ensure release from detention on the ground that there was no risk of violation of right to life.[16] In a different case, the Constitutional Court refused to grant interim measures on the basis that the individual could access health care in the Removal Centre and that detention was not per se life-threatening.[17] There have been recent reports of a disabled person being held at the Harmandalı Removal Centre, despite the fact there was a court ruling that the person could not travel alone and be deported.[18]

A woman from Angola was giving birth but was still sent to the detention centre in Silivri, Istanbul due to non-payment of a fee.[19] Some people were kept in removal centres despite having cancer or being chronically ill, as well as persons undergoing intensive care treatment.[20]

In 2020 in Istanbul vulnerable groups such as LGBT+ people and sex workers faced more discrimination. Police organised raids during the COVID-19 pandemic at midnight and those arrested were held at police stations. The PDMM issued deportation decisions based on LFIP 54/1 on the grounds of public order and public health. Access to a lawyer was also very difficult for these people. The number of lawyers working in these fields and have experience in immigration law is very limited. The number of lawyers working in the field dropped further due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. Applicants for international protection held in detention thus faced problems in exercising their right to defense. [21]

In 2020 there was a case of sexual assault against a woman in a removal centre in Van. Despite the attack she was kept in the same removal centre and had to see the perpetrators every day. Her international protection application was not processed and a deportation decision was issued. After lawyers intervened she was transferred her to a shelter in another city. In Van removal centre, lawyers could not hold a face-to-face meeting with her and had difficulties in getting power of attorney. They had to lodge an official complaint against the removal centre administration. Now, two security guards are in prison.[22]






[1]        Article 66(1)(b) LFIP.

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

[3]        Information from a stakeholder in Ankara, February 2020.

[4]        Information from a stakeholder in Gaziantep, February 2020.

[5]        Regulation No 29310 of 29 March 2015 on Child Support Centres, available in Turkish at:

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

[7]        In one case concerning a 4-year old child of a detained US national, however, the 2nd Magistrates’ Court of Hatay recognised that detention has negative effects on the child: 2nd Magistrates’ Court of Hatay, Decision 2018/2686, 13 July 2018.

[8]        Gazete Karinca, ‘İzmir’deki Geri Gönderme Merkezi’nde bebeklere “Yabancı Terörist Savaşçı” kodu verildi’, 2 December 2017, available in Turkish at:; Bianet, ‘HDP’li Kürkçü Sordu: Bebekleri ‘Terörist’ Olarak Kodluyor Musunuz?’, 12 December 2017, available in Turkish at:

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

[10]       Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, March 2020.

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

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

[13]       Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, March 2020.

[14]       2nd Magistrates’ Court of Aydın, Decision of 6 April 2017.

[15]       Information provided by a stakeholder in Gaziantep, February 2020.

[16]       ECtHR, Yapcan v. Turkey, Application No 160/18.

[17]       Constitutional Court, Decision 2018/35518, 25 December 2018.

[18]      Evrencel, ‘Engelli mülteci mahkeme kararına rağmen geri gönderme merkezinde tutuluyor’, 10 January 2020, available in Turkish at:

[19]       EgazeteEtik, ‘Doğum yapan göçmen kadın faturayı ödeyemediği için polise teslim edildi’, 14 December 2019, available in Turkish at:

[20]       Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[21]       Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[22]       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