Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 11/01/22



The “persons with special needs” category includes “unaccompanied minors, handicapped persons, elderly, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of torture, rape and other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence”.[1]

In addition to the measures set out in Identification, the LFIP makes a number of special provisions regarding the reception services to be extended to “persons with special needs” including unaccompanied children. However, the additional reception measures prescribed by the law are far from sufficient.

Reception of unaccompanied children

When it comes to unaccompanied children, Article 66 LFIP orders that the principle of “best interests of the child” shall be observed in all decisions concerning unaccompanied minor applicants. According to the new Article 66(B) LFIP, all children younger than 18 shall be placed in children’s shelters or other premises under the authority of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services.[2]

There are different procedures applied for separated children. In Kilis and Mersin, if one of the parents is alive the courts cancel the custody of children first and then appoint a guardian. In Antep the courts directly appoint a guardian.[3] In Antakya, there is a protocol between the PDDM and the Ministry of Family and Social Policies with regard to the registration of separated children and constitution of their legal relationships with their families. In Antakya in 2019 there were concerns over the custody of unaccompanied and separated children and legal assessments of new guardians not being conducted carefully.[4]

Unaccompanied male children may face difficulties in accessing protection. If the child does not have an identity card, the Child Support Centres (ÇODEM) will help to obtain one. If the child goes directly to a PDMM, he will not obtain an ID card as he must receive a guardianship decision from a court first. However, when children go to court for the appointment of a guardian, judges say that they cannot appoint a guardian because the child is not registered and, therefore, legally does not exist. This creates a vicious circle where children remain in a prolonged state of limbo and further hinders their access to the international protection procedure. Children staying in dormitories get a foreign identification number, not an ID card to access basic services such as education. When they leave the dormitory and reach the age of 18, they can apply for an ID. This is common practice, especially in Çanakkale.

Syrian children in Kilis State Hospital and Adana Balcali Hospital come from camps in the buffer zone due to poor medical infrastructure in the camps. They come alone in an ambulance, with no adult companion to take care of them then return to their camps in an ambulance again. A guardian is not appointed. Their legal representative (their parents)’ consent is not received and they can undergo operations without consent.[5]


Reception of survivors of torture or violence

Gender-based violence against refugee women persists as a risk. In early 2019, an Uzbek woman was raped by a police officer in Istanbul and, as criminal proceedings were pending before the 8th Criminal Court of Istanbul, it was reported by lawyers that the woman was deported due to a violation of visa obligations and was no longer reachable in Uzbekistan to give a power of attorney.[7] Research from 2020 on healthcare for refugees included two women who reported cases of physical and sexual violence. In one case, a Syrian woman said she was sexually assaulted by a hospital janitor at a public hospital in Gaziantep. In the second case, an Afghan woman said that she was beaten by doctors at a public hospital.[8]

In some cases, the history of gender-based violence of female applicants might be used against them by public authorities that possess their private data through personal interviews. Also, according to incidents reported from Eskişehir and Denizli, interpreters who are not generally under oath might leak this type of information within small networks in the satellite cities. It is widely known by NGOs working with women that there are rape and sexual harassment incidents committed by public officers or third parties against single women and victims of gender-based violence.

Victims of gender-based violence are referred to Centres for the Elimination and Monitoring of Violence (Şiddet Önleme ve İzleme Merkezi, ŞÖNİM) which in turn refer them to women’s shelters (kadın konukevi), mostly run by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, municipalities or NGOs.[9] In 2019 there were reports of 145 shelters with a capacity of 3,482 places.[10]

There are now four dedicated facilities for victims of human trafficking: one operated by DGMM for women in Kırıkkale with 12 places, and another shelter for women operated by the municipality of Ankara with 30 places.[11] There is also a shelter for men in Kırıkkale with 40 places and a family shelter with 40 places in Aydın. However, conditions in those centres vary. For example, a woman ran away from the centre managed by DGMM in Kırıkkale due to poor security conditions.[12]

Some NGOs, municipalities provide places for short stays in case of emergency (see also Temporary Protection: Vulnerable Groups).


Reception of LGBTI persons

LGBTI persons are not mentioned as a category of “persons with special needs” in the LFIP. Nevertheless, their particular situation was taken into consideration in the process of assignment of a “satellite city” in the past.[13] Prior to the termination of the “joint registration” system in September 2018, UNHCR / SGDD-ASAM mainly referred LGBTI persons to specific provinces, where communities were known to be more open and sensitive to this population.

Due to capacity shortages in these provinces in 2018, applicants were directed to more conservative provinces, where they face greater risks of discrimination.[14] However, in 2019 LGBTI refugees were still being referred to Eskişehir, Denizli and Yalova from Ankara at least. LGBTI ex-minors are also referred to these cities.[15]

In addition, trans persons who start or are undergoing gender reassignment process may face obstacles in securing treatment due to hospitals’ limited familiarity with this field, as well as restricted financial capacity to afford hormones which are not covered by social security.[19] In general, they consult the nearest research and training public hospitals with medical councils responsible for deciding on medico- legal processes. The very first ruling on the legal recognition of an Iranian trans woman’s application dated 2016 was published on 25 January 2018 and allowed her to proceed to gender reassignment.[20] In another positive decision, the 7th Civil Court of Izmir approved the gender reassignment process of an Iranian refugee.[21] More recently, however, lawyers have witnessed court decisions refusing gender reassignment procedures to trans refugees in Izmir and Yalova.


Reception of persons living with HIV

People living with HIV are not explicitly identified as a group having special needs in the LFIP. Few NGOs deal with the needs of this group such as Positive Life in Istanbul and SGDD-ASAM in Ankara. Unfortunately, information on their situation is not well known. The limited training and familiarity of health care institutions with their situation creates obstacles to effective access to health care.[23]



[1]        Article 3(1)(l) LFIP.

[2]        Law No 7196 amending several acts, 6 December 2019, in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2TSm0zU.

[3]       Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.

[4]        Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association.

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

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

[7]        Birgün, ‘İstanbul’da polis, taksiden indirdiği kadına tecavüz etti’, 20 January 2019, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2U2HuMb; Information provided by a lawyer of the Antalya Bar Association, March 2019.

[8]        Barriers to and Facilitators of Migrant Communities’ Access to Health Care in Istanbul, GAR (Association for Migration Research), September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3wk4nu6.

[9]        Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, Şiddet Önleme ve İzleme Merkezi, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2HLo6fm.

[10]       See BBC Turkey, 25 Kasım Kadına Yönelik Şiddetle Mücadele Günü – Kadınların ağzından sığınma evleri: ‘Sanki suç işlemişiz gibi davranıyorlar’, 25 November 2019, available in Turkish at: https://bbc.in/33S3g7j; See also, NPR, ‘We Don’t Want To Die’: Women In Turkey Decry Rise In Violence And Killings, 15 September 2019, at: https://n.pr/2WZtP8T.

[11]       DGMM, Victims of human trafficking, available at: https://bit.ly/2uFKMpT.

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

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

[14]       See e.g. Deutsche Welle, ‘Suriyelilerin İstanbul’a kaydı durduruldu’, 6 February 2018, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2sjHtWS.

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

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

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

[19]       Kaos GL, Waiting to be “safe and sound”: Turkey as an LGBTI refugees’ way station, July 2016, 39.

[20]       2nd Civil Court of Denizli, Decision 2018/19, 25 January 2018.

[21]       7th Civil Court of Izmir, Decision 2018/370, 9 October 2018.

[23]       Information provided by an NGO, February 2019.

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