Legal representation of unaccompanied children


Country Report: Legal representation of unaccompanied children Last updated: 27/02/23



According to Article 66 LFIP, from the moment an unaccompanied child international protection applicant is identified, the best interests of the child principle must be observed and the relevant provisions of Türkiye’s Child Protection Law[1] must be implemented. The child applicant must be referred to an appropriate accommodation facility under the authority of the Ministry of Family and Social Services. There is still no information on the number of unaccompanied children in Türkiye and a tendency for them not to be taken into the care of state institutions despite the recent amendment.[2]

According to the Turkish Civil Code, all children placed under state care must be assigned a guardian.[3] Specifically, all children who do not benefit from the custody of parents (velayet) must be provided guardianship (vesayet).[4] The assignment of guardians is carried out by Peace Courts of Civil Jurisdiction (Sulh Hukuk Mahkemesi) and guardianship matters are thereafter overseen by Civil Courts of General Jurisdiction (Asliye Hukuk Mahkemesi). A guardian under the Turkish Civil Code should be “an adult competent to fulfil the requirements of the task”, not engaged in an “immoral life style” or have “significant conflict of interest or hostility with the child in question”. Relatives are to be given priority to be appointed as guardians.[5] Therefore, as far as the legal requirements, qualified NGO staff, UNHCR staff or Ministry of Family and Social Services staff would qualify to be appointed as guardians for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.

Guardians are responsible for protecting the personal and material interests of the minors in their responsibility and to represent their interests in legal proceedings.[6] Although not specifically listed in the provisions, asylum procedures would fall within the mandate of the guardians. As a rule, a guardian is appointed for 2 years, and thereafter may be reappointed for additional two terms.[7]

The appointment of guardians to unaccompanied children is generally carried out without difficulty although lawyers in Ankara have witnessed difficulties.[8] In some cases, the responsibility for children has been granted to people with no qualification or who are not their first degree relative. Children have also been forced to beg in the streets and/or to work. [9]

LGBTI and other ex-minors benefit from UNHCR’s fund and receive pocket money of around 200 TL (30 EUR) a month.[10] The cash support covers three types of vulnerable groups: 1-) ex-minors 2-) trans minors 3-) victims of gender-based violence; and it is provided when they leave state premises.

The vast majority of unaccompanied children applying for international protection in Türkiye originate from Afghanistan.[11] Criminal proceedings against police officers in the case of Lütfillah Tacik, an Afghan unaccompanied child with illness who was suspiciously killed in Van, had been pending since 2014. Human rights organisations are closely following up on the case due to the multiple vulnerabilities of the child. The legal involvement and representation of the child’s parent living in a rural area of Afghanistan was not realised to date due to the lack of power of attorney issued in the name of the lawyer.[12] Eight years and 25 hearings later, a ruling was finally given in early 2022. One of the police officers was found not guilty of negligence. The other policeman was sentenced to five months in prison on the ground of superficial injury.[13]

There are also cases of Uyghur children who came to Türkiye with their parents originally but whose parents have disappeared after returning to China to visit. [14]

In 2019-20 there was a case of an unaccompanied child in Harmandalı removal centre. He said he was 17 years old, but he was recorded as older based on formal documents. His ID card was requested from his country of origin and the PDMM corrected his registration papers. His administrative detention ended, and the deportation decision was canceled. He was accepted in a dormitory of the Ministry of Family and Social Services, so the PDMM took positive initiative. The child was not assigned a guardian. When a relative of the child got in touch with the Ministry, the child was released to live with his relative.[15]

In 2021, best interest procedures were undertaken for 661 children by UNHCR and partner NGO’s and UNHCR provided training on best interest procedures after its new guidelines were issued.[16]




[1] Law No 4395 on Child Protection.

[2] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020. For more on the amendment see, Law No 7196 amending several acts, 6 December 2019, available in Turkish at:

[3] Law No 4721 on the Civil Code.

[4] Article 404 Civil Code.

[5]  Articles 413, 414, 418 Civil Code.

[6]  Articles 445-448 Civil Code.

[7] Article 456 Civil Code.

[8] Information provided by a lawyer of the Ankara Bar Association, March 2019.

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

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

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

[12] See R. ‘Ölen çocuk, sanık polis, bir dakikalık duruşma’ 17 March 2018 in Turkish at:; Amnesty International, ‘Uluslararası Af Örgütü Olarak Lütfillah Tacik Davasının Takipçisiyiz’, 19 January 2016, available in Turkish at:

[13] Bianet, ‘5-month prison sentence over refugee child Lütfillah’s death with a police fist’, 17 February 2022. Available at:

[14] See: Agence France-Presse, ‘China Took their Parents: The Uighur Refugee Children of Türkiye’, available at at: and the Taipei Times, ‘Parents of child refugees missing in China’, 1 January 2020, available at:

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

[16] UNHCR Türkiye, 2021 Operational Highlights, available at:  

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