Admission to territory

Turkey

Country Report: Admission to territory Last updated: 31/05/21

Author

Independent

While Article 6 TPR provides that all persons within the scope of the Regulation shall be protected from refoulement, the overall framework laid down by the TPR fails to explicitly guarantee the right of access Turkish territory for prospective beneficiaries. Persons approaching Turkey’s borders without a valid travel document may be admitted to territory within the discretion of the provincial Governorate.[1]

Furthermore, the Presidency has the discretion to order either “limitations” or “suspension” of existing temporary protection measures in place “in the event of circumstances threatening national security, public order, public security and public health”, including the possibility of the imposition of “additional measures concerning the mass movement of people both along Turkey’s borderline or beyond Turkey’s borderline”.[2] This formulation appears to indicate that the Turkish Government may choose to seal Turkey’s borders to persons seeking temporary protection in Turkey, either for a specific period or indefinitely, where considerations of national security, public order, public security and public health are deemed to require so.

Access through the Turkish-Syrian land border has been limited through different restrictions. Turkey completed the construction of a 764km concrete wall on its Syrian border in June 2018 and has installed cameras and lighting systems in some parts.[3] The wall stretches along the border provinces of Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay, Mardin and Şırnak. Human Rights Watch reported the Turkish-Syrian border to be “effectively closed to new asylum seekers” in 2018.[4] In March 2019, however, Turkey announced the opening of a border-crossing point in the Afrin region, named “Olive Branch”.[5] There are plans to reinforce the border-crossing point with new technology.[6] For example, in July 2020 Turkey started to patrol the border using surveillance balloons able to scan an area of eight square kilometres.[7]

The physical barrier has not completely stopped arrivals, although it has exacerbated difficulties in crossing the Turkish-Syrian border. Refugees have reportedly had to climb the border wall,[8] or to bribe border guards to enter Turkey.[9] There are also reports of tunnels and that the wall has increased smugglers’ prices.[10] According to available statistics, the Armed Forces apprehended at least 224,358 individuals trying to irregularly cross the Syrian border in 2018 alone.[11]

DGMM figures for 2020 refer to a total of 122,302 apprehended irregular migrants countrywide, of whom only 17,562 were Syrian nationals. The largest group at 50,161 were Afghans.[12] This represents an important decrease with 2019, where a total of 454,662 persons were apprehended, of whom 55,236 Syrians and 201,437 Afghans.

Allegations of push backs and violence at the Turkish-Syrian border continued. In a 2018 report, Human Rights Watch referred to 137 incidents of interception of Syrians after crossing the border between December 2017 and March 2018.[13] There are reports that Turkish officers fire guns at times to stop people entering the country.[14] Applications for international protection are not accepted at the border.[15]

In October 2019 Turkey launched a military offensive in north-eastern Syria which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was aimed at removing Kurdish-led forces from the border area and creating a “safe zone” to which millions of Syrian refugees could be returned. Turkey spoke of returning ISIL fighters to the region and presented a plan to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for resettling up to two million Syrian refugees in the areas under its control. [16] Attacks on Idlib causing the death of more than 50 Turkish soldiers in February 2020 escalated tensions in the region and led to President Erdogan ‘opening the gates’ between Turkey and the EU, saying amongst other things that Turkey could not cope with another mass influx of refugees from Syria. This led to Greece closing its border, criticisms of both Europe and Turkey’s handling of the situation and concerns for the human rights of migrants and refugees in the middle.[17] These incidents are further described in Access to the territory and push backs.

In 2020, the Women’s Solidarity Foundation also reported allegations of sexual violence and harassment committed by Turkish soldiers and security guards against Syrian women crossing the Turkish border.[18]

 

 

[1] Article 17(2) TPR.

[2]  Article 15 TPR.

[3] Daily Sabah, ‘Turkey finishes construction of 764-km security wall on Syria border’, 9 June 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2l2bOD0; Hürriyet, ‘Turkey improves border security with smart system’, 6 January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2EqALRx.

[4] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2019: Turkey, available at: https://bit.ly/2W2P1bl.

[5] Middle East Monitor, ‘Turkey to open border gate with Syria’s Afrin next week – minister’, 5 March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2ukw1s9.

[6] CNN Turk, ‘Suriye sınırına akıllı güvenlik’, 13 January 2020, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2UNgY73.

[7] Hürriyet, ‘Turkish surveillance balloon patrolling Syria border’, 21 July 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3hivXD4.

[8] Hürriyet, ‘Footage shows Syrians scaling Turkish border wall with ladders’, 7 September 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2EEp0bI.

[9] International Crisis Group, Mitigating Risks for Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa, February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2tSkVdX, 5-6.

[10]  Information received from stakeholders from Ankara and Urfa, March 2020.

[11]International Crisis Group, Mitigating Risks for Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa, February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2tSkVdX, 21.

[12]  DGMM, Irregular migration statistics, available at: https://bit.ly/3ng8jbj.

[13] Ministry of Interior, Reply to Human Rights Watch, 21 March 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2unxG2Y.

[14]  For example, Human Rights Watch, ‘Turkey/Syria: Border Guards Shoot, Block Fleeing Syrians’, 3 February 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2KhddSH.

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

[16] See the Al Jazeera timeline of events on the Turkey-Syria border, available here: https://bit.ly/2QSaLFS.

[17]  ECRE, Statement on the situation on the Greek Turkish border, 3 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2QVyzJ2.

[18]  The Women’s Solidarity Foundation, Gender Based Violence and Discrimination: Syrian Women Living In Ankara, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3dPB4r2, 26.

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