Access to the territory and push backs


Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 14/07/23



Access at the land border

Irregular arrivals are often reported in Van, Ağrı and Erzurum in the east, and Muğla, Aydın, İzmir, Çanakkale, Edirne and İstanbul in the west.

Türkiye constructed a wall on its Iranian border in 2018-2019.[1] The wall was extended along the southern and eastern borders and in 2021 trenches and wire fences were added. The number of watchtowers and police stations also increased, and the border was controlled with technological devices, including surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). President Erdogan reported the wall was 1040 km long by August 2021, with plans to extend it further including a wall on the border with Iran.[2] PMM reported in May 2023 that 284 UAV monitoring units were installed on the border, and that these measures reduced the rate of irregular crossings by 39%.[3] Although some stakeholders have continued to question the wall’s efficacy in 2022.[4] In September 2022, Greece announced that they planned to extend the 40-kilometer fence by 140 kilometers along the northern border with Türkiye to prevent migrants from entering the country.[5] Nevertheless, the wall(s) continued to be an important feature of government rhetoric on migration in the media.[6]

Increasing numbers of arrivals through the Iranian border has led to restrictive measures and arbitrary detention and deportation practices (see Place of Detention), with mainly single Afghan men being issued deportation (“T1”) forms.[7] The “T1” forms are usually issued following administrative detention in a Removal Centre or a police station, and are stored in the PMM electronic file management system named “Göç-Net”. If a “T1” deportation decision has been issued, the person cannot apply for international protection and the decision can only be challenged by a judicial appeal.[8]

According to PMM statistics, Afghanistan was the top nationality of persons apprehended for irregular migration in 2022, with 115,775 Afghan nationals out of a total of 285,027 apprehended persons. This represents a rise in the total number of irregular migrants apprehended from 2021 (122,302), although it is still far from 2019 (454,662) which had seen the highest number since records began.[9]

There were several official acknowledgements of pushbacks in 2022. A report claimed that gendarmerie had confirmed the national police had told them to push migrants back on the Türkiye-Iran border due to the high cost of feeding, housing and legally processing their claims.[10] In December 2021, Governor Bilmez from Van admitted to pushbacks against migrants on the Iranian-Turkish border, stating that nearly 120,000 migrants had been blocked from entering via the Van border that year.[11] The same governor admitted to 1,137 irregular migrants being blocked in January 2022.[12]

For the majority of migrants and refugees, it is important not to be apprehended by Turkish law enforcement due to fears of refoulement. As a result, immigrants and smugglers favour steep and risky paths with no gendarmerie or police oversight. Migrant smugglers who do not want to be caught often use a route through Lake Van, which caused an increase in the number of boats sinking in the lake and in the numbers of deaths on this route. Migrants also travel via mountains and high cliffs to avoid checks, especially during the winter. People die as a result of harsh cold, blizzards, and avalanches. Similar incidents were reported from Agri; additionally, it was reported that wolves attacked irregular migrants in the winter.[13] The Human Rights Association Van Branch estimated that 160 refugees died in the area between 2020 and 2023. 49 of them were frozen, 68 drowned in Lake Van, 42 died in smuggler-caused car accidents, and one was shot to death.[14]

In 2022, those who are forced back into Iran risk becoming stuck in the mountains separating Iran from Türkiye and suffering brutal treatment from Iranian state authorities, including shooting and injuries.  Iranian military continued to injure people physically and carried out their own “pushback” to prevent Afghans from going back to Iran.  Undocumented migrants who escaped detection frequently went into hiding in Van and were reluctant to request international protection for fear of being pushed back. Despite being driven back from the border four or five times, people continued to attempt to enter Türkiye. Many of them attempted to migrate to the western cities of Türkiye once they had arrived.[15]

There have also been reports of pushbacks from Greece to Türkiye for several years.

In the Aegean Sea, 988 pushback incidents were recorded in 2022, a 57.1% increase from 2021. There were reportedly 988 pushback incidents in the Aegean Sea in 2022, involving 26,133 men, women, and children attempting to reach refuge in Europe. In 2022, the number of individuals who were sent back increased by 65.4% compared to the previous year. Almost 60 percent of all boats picked up by the Turkish coast guard in 2022 had been pushed back by Greek authorities. While 15,225 people were driven back at sea in 583 rubber boats with engines or fuel removed and left drifting, and in some cases even towed back to Turkish waters, 9,656 people were forced into a total of 575 life rafts and left to drift in the Aegean Sea in 384 registered cases.[16]

The Ombudsman Institution in Ankara has monitored the pushbacks in İzmir, Aydın, and Van and penned a report launched in June 2022.[17] On 2 February 2022, it was reported that 19 refugees and migrants who were forced back in the winter cold after being stripped of their clothing and subjected to violence froze to death while returning to Türkiye. The Ombudsman had examined thousands of cases, statements, official documents and records, medical reports, and video recordings related to pushbacks. 50 distinct cases of pushback practices by Greek officials against refugees such as “extortion through confiscation of cash, phones, ID cards, passports and belongings”, “not meeting basic nutritional needs such as food and water”, “not allowing refugees to use the toilet”, “disposing or burning their clothes and shoes” and “intimidation with guns” and migrants had been identified, including systematic intimidation to ensure that migrants will not return. According to the Coast Guard Command’s statistics, as of 31 May 2022, 7,579 pushbacks at sea and 202 pushbacks on land took place, and 15,254 refugees and migrants were caught/rescued by the Turkish Coastal Guards. Approximately 41,523 refugees and migrants were pushed back between the beginning of 2020 and the end of May 2022, according to the statistics.[18]

In 2022, however, presenting applications for international protection remained problematic for pushed-back irregular migrants. In the case of a pushed-back woman from Sierra Leone, she was transferred to the Harmandali Removal Centre but was released after her lawyers made multiple requests to the PDMM to receive and evaluate her application for international protection. After being released, the woman attempted to cross the Aegean Sea a second time, but failed and was transferred to the Aydin Removal Centre. After being released once more, she was able to cross the sea and apply for asylum in Greece.[19]

Perhaps because of the difficulties in accessing Greece, and a rise in fatalities and shipwrecks in Greek waters, one stakeholder reported an increase in irregular migration towards Italy instead of Greece in 2022. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made the same statement, noting an increase in irregular migration from Türkiye to Italy by 2020. [20]

Access to the territory through the Syrian land border is discussed in detail in Temporary Protection: Admission to Territory.


Access at the airport

Airports in İstanbul (Sabiha Gökçen and İstanbul) continue to serve as a key international hub for connection flights from refugee-producing regions to European and other Western destinations for asylum. It should be noted that visa restrictions have applied to Syrian nationals arriving from third countries by air and sea since 2016. The main airport is now the new İstanbul Airport.

Normally, airports are problematic and individuals cannot submit their international protection applications. Türkiye’s open-door policy ended with the signature of the EU-Türkiye Statement in 2016 and since then very few applications have been accepted at the borders. The practice seems to be to reject them explicitly or implicitly – not processing the applications that are accepted.[21] After the COVID-19 pandemic, people were taken from İstanbul Airports and placed in removal centers. They were then released.

When a person was obliged to give their signature regularly as part of the reporting process, there were sometimes problems and they had to go to another city because applications were closed in İstanbul. In certain cases, when a person wanted to go to another city to apply for international protection, the application was not accepted because the person was obliged to periodically give their signature in İstanbul.

Similarly to 2021, in 2022, it became more difficult to apply for asylum at the airport and many people were reportedly sent back to their country of origin. The conditions worsened in transit zones, especially at the İstanbul Airport. In airport transit zones, for example, it is legally impossible to file for a suspension of deportation order, and the only way to do so is to obtain an interim measure, which the Constitutional Court made clear it would not grant anymore. Accessibility to transit zones remains a problem. Even if the person contacts an NGO or a lawyer, the transit zone administrator does not frequently inform lawyers and NGOs accurately.[22] There is a magistrate court in the airport and its decisions are quite inconsistent. In the case of a Nigerian, international protection was not granted, and he was required to depart from Türkiye.[23] In the case of a Russian family, they were able to enter Türkiye at the Antalya airport, but they received no response about their residence permit application, so they continued to renew their applications by paying at least 1,000 TRY per individual.[24] A Syrian was returned to Lebanon at Sabiha Gokcen Airport based on the issuance of an entry code. However, the individual had never entered Türkiye before, so his lawyer challenged the decision.[25]

The airline company that brought the protection seeker to the country covers the food and beverage expenses of that person and meets some basic needs. One stakeholder described the conditions saying people were kept in a place with no windows, no ventilation, and the lights were on 24 hours for nine months, and the only thing they were given to eat was cold airline sandwiches.[26]

After the application is submitted to PMM, the procedure is managed by the PDMM. According to law, they have to be accepted into the country once the application is received. In İstanbul Airport, people who have applied for international protection can stay for months in rooms provided at the airport. Those whose applications are rejected file a lawsuit against the refusal decision before the administrative court and should remain in the room until the case is concluded. This makes it almost impossible to apply. According to law, an international protection application cannot be made through a proxy. This application cannot be made at the airport due to the physical limits of that area – an area that is very difficult to access. If the applicant needs to apply to the court after receiving an adverse decision, a lawyer, a private or legal aid lawyer, can meet with that person at the border at the airport. The lawyer cannot enter the transit zone, and the applicant cannot enter Türkiye.  Lawyer-client meetings are held next to the police; there is no privacy.

In 2022, stakeholders confirmed that it has been still difficult to obtain permission from the airport administration for a private interview with clients. Even where a lawyer manages to meet the client, it is impossible to submit an international protection application at the airport.[27]

Again, at İstanbul airport, another stakeholder reported that the transit zone was problematic. Permission is needed from the administrative unit at the airport to meet with a client. Interviews are held in a publicly accessible space, without any attorney-client privacy. [28]

If the person has arrived with a fake passport, they are taken to a room called ‘problematic passengers’. Communication with PDMMs about asylum requests is not quick. This systemic issue can lead to the extended stay of such persons in the transit zone or problematic passenger room.[29]

At the Izmir airport, an Afghan national who was judge in Afghanistan and residing in Türkiye tried to enter Dubai with a fake passport. He was deported to Türkiye. Criminal proceedings were initiated against him before the competent magistrate court. When transferred to a public hospital for a medical report, he tried to run away. Then he was subjected to ill-treatment by police officers. Before the proceeding started, he was issued a “decision not to leave Türkiye” on the basis of the ongling proceedings. His lawyer could not access to transit zone but could see him in the police station of the airport.[30]

In 2022 notary fees remained very high for refugees, costing 2500-3500 TRY at the airport (on average 100-150 EUR although exchange rates varied significantly in 2022 and 2023). Interpreting also costs 800 TRY (on average 40 EUR). The notary requires an interpreter even if the client knows Turkish.[31]




[1] TRT, ‘Wall set to improve security along Türkiye-Iranian border’, 8 November 2018, available at:

[2] CNN Türkiye, ‘President Erdogan also mentioned: Exactly 1040 kilometers of migration wall,’ 14 August 2021. Available in Turkish, at:

[3] TV 100, ‘Düzensiz Göçle Mücadele Genel Müdürü Ramazan Seçilmiş tv100’ün sorularını yanıtladı! Göçle mücadele için nasıl bir önlem alınıyor?’, 19 May 2023, available in Turkish at:

[4] Information from a stakeholder, May 2023.

[5] Euronews, ‘Yunanistan, göçmen akınına karşı Türkiye sınırındaki çitleri 140 km daha uzatma kararı aldı’,6 June 2022, available in Turkish at:

[6] For example, see DW, ‘Erdogan: We will block the entrances and exits with the walls we have built on the   borders’, 15 August 2021. Available in Turkish, at:

[7] See e.g. Afghanistan Analysts Network, ‘Mass Deportations of Afghans from Türkiye: Thousands of migrants sent back in a deportation drive’, 21 June 2018, available at:

[8] Information provided by a stakeholder in March 2019.

[9] PMM, Irregular migration statistics, available at:

[10] Open Democracy, ‘Afghans fleeing the Taliban face death, deportation and pushbacks in Türkiye’, 15 July 2021. Available at:

[11] Milliyet, ‘Bilmez: Nearly 120,000 immigrants were blocked at the Van border in 2021’, 31 December 2021. Available in Turkish at:

[12] Yenicag, ‘Statement of illegal immigrants from Van Governorate’, 13 January 2022, available in Turkish at:

[13] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[14] Rûdaw, ‘Van’da son 3 yılda 160 mülteci yaşamını yitirdi’, 25 January, 2022,  

[15] Information from a stakeholder, May 2023.

[16] Turkish Minute, ‘Pushback cases in Aegean Sea increased by 57 percent in 2022: report’, 11 January 2023 available at:

[17] Republic Of Türkiye The Ombudsman Institution, ‘“Pushbacks” on Human Rights”, June 2022, available at:

[18] Republic Of Türkiye The Ombudsman Institution, ‘“Pushbacks” on Human Rights”, June 2022, available at:

[19] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[20] VOA, ‘Türkiye’den İtalya’ya Göçmen Kaçıran Çete Yakalandı’, 21 October 2022, available in Turkish at:

[21] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2023.

[22] Information provided by a stakeholder, April 2023.

[23] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[24] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[25] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[26] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[27] Information from a stakeholder, May 2023.

[28] Information from a stakeholder, May 2023.

[29] Information from a stakeholder, May 2023.

[30] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

[31] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of main changes since the previous report update
  • Introduction to the asylum context in Türkiye
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • Temporary Protection Regime
  • Content of Temporary Protection