Cessation of temporary protection

Turkey

Country Report: Cessation of temporary protection Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Independent

Temporary protection status shall cease for a particular beneficiary where he or she:[1]

  1. Leaves Turkey voluntarily;
  2. Avails him or herself of the protection of a third country;
  3. Is admitted to a third country on humanitarian grounds or for resettlement.

Voluntary return continued to be a prominent issue and concern in the temporary protection system in 2019. The Minister of Justice stated that in 2019, 373,592 Syrian nationals had left Turkey to return to their country of origin,[2] and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that around 371,000 people had returned to safe zones in Syria.[3] The Ministry of Defence has said that around 580,000 Syrians repatriated in 2019 including 380,000 to the Euphrates Shield Zone, 135,000 to the Peace Spring Shield Zone and over 65,000 to the Olive Branch Zone.[4] These statements should be read with caution, however, vis-à-vis the voluntariness of returns to Syria, and re-entry to Turkey of persons who have travelled to Syria.

 

Voluntariness of repatriation

 

The TPR does not specify how the cessation criterion of voluntary departure from Turkey is to be assessed. In theory, when a temporary protection beneficiary indicates the intention to return to Syria, he or she is interviewed by a panel consisting of DGMM, UNHCR and civil society; the latter not being applied in practice. A lawyer can also be present in the interview. The panel assesses whether return is in fact voluntary and the underlying reasons behind it. Return cases are often related to people having property or a job in Syria.[5]

According to Istanbul PDMM,[6]42,888 irregular migrants were sent to detention centres in several cities and 6,416 unregistered Syrians were sent to temporary accommodation centres between 12 July 2019 and 15 November 2019. Unregistered single men were sent to removal centres such as Tuzla or Pendik. Even registered people were sent to removal centres especially in July. Several cases are now pending before Istanbul courts regarding appeals against administrative detention and deportation decisions.[7]

Amnesty International has also documented cases of persons being sent to removal centers, many of whom concerned Syrians who were deported from Istanbul and were apprehended while they were working or walking down the street. Amnesty International further documented 20 cases of forced returns between 25 May and 13 September 2019, most of which 14) were carried out in July 2019. The Turkish authorities have said these were cases of “voluntary returns,” and claim that over several years, more than 315,000 Syrians have left of their own free will. However, Syrians consistently say they are being misled about the “voluntary return” forms they are being told or forced to sign, i.e. through intimidation, threats and beatings. Some people say they were also beaten on their journey to the border by the Gendarmerie. All the deportees said they were sent to north-western Syria.[8]

Lawyers in Antakya reported an approximate 20%-30% rise in deportation cases after the operations carried out in Istanbul in July 2019.[9] The number of Syrian refugees whose temporary protection was ceased, and litigation on the matter, also rose significantly.[10] The main reasons for cessation were voluntary returns and ‘the serious suspect that they are involved in a criminal act’. The latter is against the presumption of innocence and in addition the authorities often interpret the latter when a Syrian refugee is a plaintiff or witness in a case or a criminal investigation. As a result, Syrian victims do not dare to complain before the authorities out of fear of being deported. [11].

UNHCR continued to monitor voluntary returns in 2019. According to their 2019 report, UNHCR observed the voluntary return interviews of over 34,300 families in 2019 in nine provinces across South East Turkey as well as Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Manisa, and conducted visits with DGMM to observe the voluntary return procedures put in place by the provincial directorates, to identify gaps and challenges in the implementation and to provide support and strengthen the capacity of the provincial directorate staff. According to UNHCR some key findings of the monitoring were that the preferred destination of return in 2019 was Aleppo with 49% of the returnees interviewed, followed by Idlib (17%). Some 54% of returnees said the main reason for their return was ‘to join family members’ and the second reason with 8% of returnees was the ‘lack of financial/ humanitarian support/assistance in Turkey’. For 77% of refugees, it was their first time to return to Syria since they had been forced to flee.[12]

Human Rights Association (IHD), one of the biggest human rights organisations in Turkey, has revealed that neither UNHCR, Turkish Kizilay nor any other NGOs were present during voluntary return procedures for Syrians from July to October 2019 in Istanbul.[13]  Where temporary protection is terminated based on cessation, DGMM issues a “V87” code to mark the person as a “voluntarily returned foreigner”. The person is usually left at the border and handles the return process him or herself.[14] However, beneficiaries are not always adequately informed of the process.

Moreover, the aforementioned interview procedure is not followed in Removal Centres. Persons signing voluntary return documents – often following pressure from authorities (see Detention of Asylum Seekers) – do not undergo an interview by a panel aimed at establishing whether return is voluntary.[15]

 

Re-entry following cessation

 

It is common for refugees to travel back to Syria for administrative reasons e.g. renewal of passport, and then to return to Turkey.[16]

Admission to the temporary protection regime of persons who previously benefitted from temporary protection in Turkey but their status was ceased is assessed on an individual basis by DGMM.[17] DGMM is authorised to grant or deny renewed access to temporary protection status upon repeat arrival in Turkey.

There continue to be cases of people whose temporary protection status was ceased, and who were issued a “V87” code, being unable to re-access rights upon return to Turkey. For example, it was reported that approximately 500 Syrians in Mardin are living without status near the border after having had their temporary protection status ceased and subsequently coming back to Turkey.[18] These persons had not been adequately informed by the authorities at the border on their obligations under temporary protection and the consequences of leaving the country. However, DGMM issued a Circular on 7 January 2019, instructing PDMM to lift the “V87 code” in respect of persons returning to Turkey after having signed a “voluntary return document”, especially pregnant women, elderly persons and children, as of 1 January 2019, to allow them to re-access services.[19] The Circular also requires PDMM to provide detailed information to temporary protection beneficiaries on the legal implications of signing a “voluntary return document”.

In Antakya requests for reactivation of temporary protection were high in 2019. In case of deportation for a registered Syrian, temporary protection was deactivated and a code called a c-114 was issued. In case of return to Turkey, temporary protection was not re-activated during the first year of return leaving Syrians at risk of deportation even in the case of a minor problem or where they are the plaintiff or witness of a criminal issue or complaint. People sign voluntary return forms often without knowing what they are for and deportations are carried out mostly on weekends. There was a case of a married woman with four children including one disabled child who was deported alone to Syria.[20]  However, the ‘V-87’ circular had a positive effect. Interviews for those whose temporary protection had been cancelled began to be held mainly for vulnerable refugees with no criminal record in Turkey.[21]

In Izmir in 2019, the temporary protection of Syrians who were previously and unlawfully deported and kept in detention centres were not re-activated once they returned to Turkey which is against the law. However, Syrians with special needs like victims of violence or international human trafficking were treated with more care by PDMM.[22] The deactivation of temporary protection can be problematic for families with school-age children. In urgent cases, PDMM can reactivate temporary protection in a limited way – meaning that it is activated only for health or education purposes.[23]

The question of cessation has also arisen in the context of the readmission of Syrian nationals from Greece to Turkey under the EU-Turkey statement. An amendment to the TPR was introduced on 5 April 2016 to clarify that Syrian nationals, who entered Turkey after 28 April 2011 and who transited irregularly to the Aegean islands after 20 March 2016, “may” be provided temporary protection.[24] DGMM statistics refer to 404 Syrian “irregular migrants” readmitted by Turkey from 4 April 2016 to 5 March 2020.[25]

 


[1]Article 12(1) TPR.

[2] Haber 3, ‘2019'da gönüllü olarak Suriye'ye dönen Suriyeli sayısı açıklandı’, 1 January 2020, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3bB1R7H.

[3] AA news, ‘Dışişleri Bakanı Çavuşoğlu: 371 bin Suriyeli güvenli şekilde geri döndü’, 16 December 2019, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2QVuzs2.

[4] Ministry of Defence, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3atM5uZ.

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

[6] Istanbul PDMM statement available here (in Turkish): https://bit.ly/33LBDwB.

[7] Information provided by a lawyer from the Istanbul Bar Association, February 2020.

[8] Amnesty International, Sent to a War Zone: Turkey’s Illegal Deportations of Syrian Refugees, 25 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3dBsknn.

[9] Information provided by a stakeholder in Antakya, February 2020.

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

[11] Information provided by a stakeholder in Antakya, February 2020.

[12] UNHCR, Turkey: 2019 Operational Highlights, available at: https://bit.ly/2xvTICI.

[13] Evrensel, ‘İHD'den mülteci hak ihlalleri raporu: Gönüllü geri dönüş formlarında yetkili imza yok’, 1 November 2019, available in Turkish, at: https://bit.ly/3bxKO6E.

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

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

[16] Information provided by Kirkayak Cultural Centre, February 2019.

[17] Article 13 TPR.

[18]  Information provided by a lawyer of the Izmir Bar Association, March 2019.

[19] DGMM Circular 2019/1 on Cessation of Status of Syrians due to Voluntary Return, 7 January 2019.

[20] Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, February 2020.

[21] Information provided by SGDD-ASAM Antakya, February 2020.

[22] Information provided by a lawyer from the Izmir Bar Association, February 2020.

[23] Information provided by a lawyer from the Antakya Bar Association, February 2020.

[24] Provisional Article 1(6) TPR, as inserted by Article 1 Regulation 2016/8722 of 5 April 2016.

[25] DGMM, Return statistics, available at: http://bit.ly/2AMI7g5.

 

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