Guarantees for vulnerable groups


Country Report: Guarantees for vulnerable groups Last updated: 14/07/23



As with the LFIP, the TPR also contains definitions of “persons with special needs” and “unaccompanied children” and provides for additional guarantees. According to Article 3 TPR, “unaccompanied minors, persons with disability, elderly, pregnant women, single parents with accompanying children, victims of torture, sexual assault or other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence” are to be categorised as “persons with special needs”.

The TPR and other related secondary legislation providing the legal framework and procedures for the provision of services to temporary protection beneficiaries identify the Ministry of Family and Social Services as the responsible authority for “persons with special needs”.

As provided by the AFAD Circular 2014/4 on “Administration of Services to Foreigners under the Temporary Protection Regime”, “services such as accommodation, care and oversight of unaccompanied minors, persons with disabilities and other persons with special needs are the responsibility of the Ministry of Family and Social Services. The Ministry is responsible for the referral of vulnerable persons to children centres, women shelters or other appropriate places.”

Being identified and registered as a “person with special needs” entitles beneficiaries to additional safeguards and prioritised access to rights and services. They should be provided “health care services, psycho-social assistance, rehabilitation and other support and services free of charge and on priority basis, subject to the limitations of capacity.”[1]


Unaccompanied children under temporary protection

Article 3 TPR defines an “unaccompanied minor” as “a child who arrives in Türkiye without being accompanied by an adult who by law or custom is responsible for him or her, or, a child left unaccompanied after entry into Türkiye, provided that he or she did not subsequently come under the active care of a responsible adult”.

Türkiye is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and domestic child-protection standards are generally in line with international obligations. According to Turkish Law, unaccompanied children, once identified, should be taken under state protection with due diligence under the authority of the Ministry of Family and Social Services.

Article 48 TPR provides that unaccompanied children shall be treated in accordance with relevant child protection legislation and in consideration of the “best interests” principle. The 2015 Ministry of Family and Social Policies Directive on Unaccompanied Children provides additional guidance regarding the rights, protection procedures and implementation of services for unaccompanied children. The Directive designates PDMMs as the state institution responsible for the identification, registration and documentation of the unaccompanied children. PDMMs are also entrusted the responsibility of providing shelter to unaccompanied children until the completion of the age assessment, health checks and registration, documentation procedures upon which the child is referred to the Ministry of Family and Social Services.

Once the PDMM refers the child to the relevant Provincial Ministry of Family and Social Services Child Protection Directorate, temporary protection beneficiary unaccompanied children aged 0-12 are to be transferred to a child protection institution under the authority of the Ministry of Family and Social Services.

According to the TPR, unaccompanied children are mainly housed in Ministry of Family and Social Services shelters but may also be placed in Temporary Accommodation Centres if appropriate conditions can be ensured.[2] In practice, unaccompanied children between the ages of 0-18 are transferred to the nearest Provincial Child Protection Directorate. These children are not only Syrians, but include children from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and South Africa. The Ministry has established child protection centres for unaccompanied children, but the number of unaccompanied children placed in these institutions has not been made public.[3]

The psychosocial well-being of Syrian children in Türkiye has been visibly impacted from the traumatic effects of war and flight, as well as deprivation, lack of opportunities for social interaction, and limited access to basic services. According to academic research conducted in 2022 and 2023, the psychosocial  needs of Syrian children are largely disregarded by the authorities, and more sustainable activities, such as sport and the arts, should be performed to accelerate their social integration.[4]


Women and girls under temporary protection

Protection from domestic violence

As regards the protection of women, Article 48 TPR refers to Türkiye’s Law No 6284 on Protection of the Family and Prevention of Violence, and the Implementing Regulation of this law, which provides a series of preventive and protection measures for women who are either victim or at risk of violence.

These guarantees are particularly important in light of the persisting risks of gender-based violence or even death generally affecting women in Türkiye.[5] Two-thirds of married women who participated in a study conducted in Kocaeli in 2022 reported experiencing one or more forms of gender-based violence in their marriages but only 38% consider divorce.[6]

Women subjected to or at risk of domestic violence or sexual or gender-based violence by people other than family members must be protected by the competent state authorities. When a woman contacts the police or any other state institution or a third party informs the authorities, depending on the case, either preventive or protective measures should be taken. Temporary protection beneficiary women can also benefit from these measures.

On the basis of a referral from either the police, women can be referred to Centres for the Elimination and Monitoring of Violence (Şiddet Önleme ve İzleme Merkezi, ŞÖNİM), which then refer them to women shelters (kadın konukevi) run by the Ministry of Family and Social Services, municipalities or NGOs in accordance with available capacity.

However, the problem is that the total number and capacity of women’s shelters in Türkiye falls far short of the demand (see International Protection: Special Reception Needs). According to data shared by the Ministry of Family and Social Services on 1 April 2022, the Ministry manages 112 women’s shelters, a significant decrease from the previous year’s total of 145. There have been 61,167 mothers and 26,428 children housed in these facilities.[7] Since women’s shelters in the area are intended to house both Turkish and foreign nationals, temporary protection and international protection recipient women are also affected by the capacity issues.  In refugee dense areas such as Gaziantep, Adana, and Sanlurfa, there is an urgent need for more women’s shelters.

Another related practical limitation is that, although the law clearly provides that both women at risk of violence and women who have actually been subjected to violence should be able to access shelters, in practice due to capacity problems only women who have actually been subjected to violence are offered access to existing shelters. In most cases, shelters also inquire into the women’s claim to ascertain that violence is “certain” and request evidence such as an assault report or a criminal investigation, although practice is not uniform across the country.

As a rule, women placed in shelters can stay in the facility up to 6 months. This period can be extended on exceptional basis. Victims of human trafficking are housed in two shelters located in Ankara and Kirikkale for one month (see International Protection: Special Reception Needs).[8]

The Women Shelters Regulation issued in 2013 also clearly indicates that for a woman to be admitted to a shelter, she is not required to provide a valid identity document. However, a Temporary Protection Identification Document is required of women seeking to be admitted to shelters in practice. To admit applicants in 2022, some women’s shelters in Istanbul required registration with the municipality and a valid identification number.[9]

In 2022, like in previous years, NGOs often have to try to ‘convince’ police officers in police stations that a woman has been subject to violence. The process at police stations takes a long time, i.e. at least half a day. Conditions in shelters are restrictive and many migrant women leave after 2-3 days due to discrimination and psychological violence from Turkish women. LGBTQI+ women are automatically excluded from these shelters.[10]

In Ankara, Diskapi and Ulus State hospitals are now well equipped in terms of translators thanks to SIHHAT project’s translator support. In 2022, in some cities, women who were victims of SGBV had their applications taken, and they could access protection immediately. In some small towns, some SONIM’s (shelters) accept refugee women even without a criminal complaint reported against the perpetrator. However, in Ankara, the shelter requires a criminal complaint and the ID card of the applicant.[11]

Victims of human trafficking and violence who approached to NGOs to get support, reported that some NGOs do not carefully examine their case.

Discriminatory behavior is common among public officers working at courthouses. Alongside open hate speech, public officers can display other forms of discrimination against refugees, such as not properly informing them or slowing down the judicial process.

Access to justice in the courts is further complicated due to language barriers. Women receive notifications from the courts in Turkish not in Arabic including in SMS messages. Syrian women’s cases can be rejected due to a lack of translators in the courts or a lack of knowledge on the part of the legal aid staff.

Courts issue suspension orders in cases of domestic violence, but in 2022, they have been still ineffective because the perpetrators and victims reside in the same household. Violence perpetrated by the Turkish police or along the migration route is pervasive but completely invisible. Syrian women cannot discuss sexual harassment or assault of this nature.[12]

In South-Eastern Anatolia, the need for women’s shelters is very high. Due to capacity problems, some shelters give priority to women with an assault report or a criminal investigation, which is very difficult for refugee/asylum-seeking women. As a rule, women placed in shelters can stay in the facility for up to six months. Even if they are lucky enough to find a place in a women’s shelter, they generally return to the house where they experienced violence at the end of six months. Protection and prevention mechanisms in cases of SGBV/GBV against refugee women in Türkiye do not work effectively.[13]

Polygamous and arranged marriages

In addition to violence, the protection of women and girls under the age of 18 involved in arranged marriages and unofficial polygamous marriages – including “second wives” and girls sold by their families – is a persistent and significant concern. Despite the fact that both practises are illegal under Turkish law, polygamous marriages are lawful in Syria, and women are not always aware of the legal differences between the two countries. These issues have also contributed to an increase in the rate of early divorce among girls under the age of 18, as well as an increase in the number of children whose mothers abandon them after marrying Turkish men.[14]

Syrian refugees’ mass migration to the provinces next to the Syrian border has resulted in an increased number of child brides and polygamy in Türkiye. To overcome threats posed by prostitution and sexual assault, early marriages and becoming a co-wife (Kuma in Turkish) are considered a means of social protection for refugee women. The rates of early and/or forced marriages, sexual violence, polygamy, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe deliveries, and maternal mortality among Syrian refugees are significantly higher than among Turkish women.[15] As the status of the second wife is not recognised in Turkish Civil Law, in the case of abuse and violence they have difficulties in accessing their legal rights.[16]

In spite of criminalization in Turkish law, temporary protection recipients have limited opportunities to claim the relevant legal safeguards and protection measures due to a lack of adequate public information and, most importantly, a critical shortage of counselling and legal assistance services available to refugee women. In addition, when treating child brides and mothers, public authorities such as health care institutions frequently fail to fulfil their legal obligation to inform the police of child marriage cases.  In cases where they inform the authorities, police officers may not investigate the incidents.[17] Statistics on such reports are not available countrywide in 2022.  According to a report by Save the Children, the risk of early child marriage for Syrian girls is 50%, compared to 15% for girls from the host community.[18]

Initiatives such as the Child Protection Centre run by Türk Kızılay in Altındağ, Ankara offer information to women on early pregnancy, child marriage, sexual harassment, reproductive rights and contraception.

In addition, polygamous marriages have an impact on refugees’ access to certain rights such as Social Welfare. The assistance granted under the ESSN, for instance, is only provided to one wife and her registered per household.[19]

Finally, the issue of arranged marriages is not confined to women in Türkiye. Incidents of refugee women sold into marriage have been also reported in 2022.[20]

The situation of sex workers

Since sex work is frequently perceived in Türkiye as behaviour endangering public order or health, certain groups like sex workers are particularly vulnerable. In an evacuation case filed against a Syrian transgender sex worker woman by the end of 2022, it was argued that she was required to leave the property because she engaged in sex work and was a transgender woman, neither of which is unlawful in Türkiye. The case is still pending.[21] Due to the small amount of the financial support provided by UNHCR and the inability to access the labour market, their engagement in sex work continued through 2022.[22] Syrian cisgender sex workers who are victims of gender-based violence have the right to be placed in SONIM, but due to the language barrier, they typically leave the shelter after three to four days.[23]


Torture survivors under temporary protection

Both LFIP and TPR identify “torture survivors” among persons with special needs. Torture survivors, like all other temporary protection beneficiaries, have access to a range of healthcare services in public hospitals, including psychiatric assistance. There are also a small number of NGOs that specialise in treatment and rehabilitation services to torture survivors.


LGBTQI+ persons under temporary protection

Persons belonging to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex populations are not defined by the TPR as a category of “persons with special needs”. The lack of a gender-sensitive registration procedure under TPR has an impact on their ability to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity or being registered as persons with special needs.[24] However, it should be noted that when they inform PDMM’s protection offices about their gender identity or sexual orientation, they are eligible for a protection interview and resettlement evaluation. UNHCR implementing partners often provide help in this process.[25]

In a context of widespread discrimination, LGBTIQ+ refugees feel unsafe and vulnerable. This discrimination is prevalent when they seek accommodation or labour market access. In 2022, Syrian trans women, including trans sex workers, faced discriminatory – and in some instances violent – treatment in their interactions with authorities, ranging from interactions with police to registration with PMM to accessing health care services or housing.[26]

Because of the PDMMs’ referrals, LGBTIQ+ communities living in relatively small cities like Yalova, where approximately 2,000 LGBTIQ+ individuals live encounter significant housing, labour market, and health care problems and wish to leave Türkiye as soon as possible.[27] Their access to health care, including in Migrant Health Centres (see Health Care) is hindered by high levels of discrimination and fear of being exposed to a family member and they prefer approaching to public hospitals.[28] Trans refugee women often cannot access essential health treatment.

As a result of the change in registration policy, from 6 June 2022 to 6 February 2023, PDMMs referred Syrians seeking protection to temporary accommodation centres. For instance, one transgender person was granted access to the temporary accommodation centre in Kahramanmaras, while another transgender woman’s access was denied by temporary accommodation center in Adana. In these two cases, they were unable to register. However, in cases of gender-based violence registration was accesible. In June 2022, a transgender woman residing in Hatay without registration was subject to sexual violence and  could access registration only after lodging a complaint and providing proof of gender-based violence to the PDMM.[29]


Ethnic and other minorities under temporary protection

The number of members of ethnic minorities, such as Roma, Dom and Lom groups from Syria are not known for certain. In Gaziantep, these groups generally live in rural areas, work in seasonal agricultural work and refrain from registering out of fear of being discriminated by the public authorities.[30] In the Şirinevler district of Gaziantep 70% of the population is Dom. In Gaziantep, there is a huge industrial area in the Unaldi district where many Syrians including Doms, are employed without a work permit. In rural areas, families generally live together. However, in big cities, they prefer not to be visible and live separated from each other.

These groups are under temporary protection, however they generally have old versions of identity documents such as “guest” cards and YKN cards starting with the digit “98” (see Temporary Protection Identification Document). One reason for this is the fear of being discriminated in PDMM. They do not comply with their duties of reporting due to perceived and actual institutional discrimination and so have major difficulties in accessing basic services. While improvements with regard to raising awareness were noted in 2019, there is still no standardised practice towards the Dom community in 2022. From 2019 travel documents were issued online which makes it difficult for Dom communities to access.

Access to health is still quite problematic for the Dom community due to discrimination so they prefer going to the Migrant Health Centre funded by UNCHR with Syrian doctors. The Syrian doctors working in these centres earn less than their Turkish colleagues and the quality of the service can be low.

Dom groups traditionally did not get married but they are starting to in order to access social benefits as this is one of the requirements. Women have also begun to be more conscious about their civil rights. The Kirkayak Cultural Centre continue to help Dom communities access services and rights such as registering newborn babies.

Recent reports from the Kirkayak Cultural Centre indicate that problems associated with this minority group persist. It was stressed that the temporary protection programmes for Dom and Abdal groups seeking refuge are still insufficient, and that international humanitarian actors have left these groups behind. The protection system is unable to address discrimination and devise strategies to facilitate this group’s access to rights and services.[31]

This year, we became aware of a new minority group in Mardin. This community is referred to as ‘Kuyubasi refugees’ (Wellhead refugees) in Mardin. This group has been studied since 2019 by the Lider Kadin Dernegi (Leader Woman Association), a local non-profit. According to their reports, 90% of the agricultural irrigation in the province is carried out through wells indicates the importance of wells for this region, considering the agricultural industry, which is very important for the livelihoods of the region and the ever-increasing drought. Following the mass migration that followed the Syrian civil war, some of the most vulnerable and impoverished Syrian households were housed near these wells to protect the water. While official data regarding the number of Syrians performing irrigation work in the region is unavailable, a field survey conducted by the Association estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in Kızıltepe and Derik well capitals exceeds 10,000.[32] As these groups are quite economically and socially vulnerable, their primary problems have been identified as congestion, lack of space, electricity-water cuts, hygiene issues, vulnerability to environmental and natural hazards, and spatial and social segregation.[33]




[1]  Article 48 TPR.

[2] Article 30(3) TPR, as inserted by Regulation 2018/11208. The previous provision in Article 23(4) TPR has been repealed by the amendment.

[3]  Obianet, ‘News List’, 2023, available at:

[4]  Halk Sağlığı Bakışıyla Göçün Ruh Sağlığına Etkileri, ‘The Effects of Migration on Mental Health From a Public Health Perspective’, 2023, available at:; Ali Riza Atici, ‘Ortaokullarda öğrenim gören mülteci ve göçmen çocukların motor beceri düzeyleri ve beden eğitimi temel psikolojik ihtiyaçlarının incelenmesi’ 2023, available at:

[5] For 2017 figures on killings and sexual abuse, see Hürriyet, ‘409 women killed, 387 children sexually abused in Türkiye: 2017 Report’, 2 January 2018, available at: See also Observatory for Human Rights and Forced Migrants in Türkiye, A Year of Impunity: A one year visual database of migration-related human rights abuses, July 2017, 14.

[6] Birkan Doğan & Hasan H. Taylan, ‘Geçici Koruma Altindaki Suriyelilerin Aile İçi Sorunlarinin İncelenmesi: Kocaeli Örneği’, 2022, available at:

[7]  Sol, ‘Sığınma evleri yetersiz kalıyor’, May 2022, available at:

[8]  PMM, ‘İnsan Ticareti İle Mücadele 2023’, available at:

[9]  Information provided by a stakeholder in İstanbul, March 2020.

[10] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2021 and May 2023.

[11]  Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022 and May 2023.

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

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

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

[15] Ibid, page 7.

[16] Ibid, page 8.

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

[18] Duvar, ‘Pandemide çocuk evlilikleri: Mülteci kız çocukları risk altında’, 2021, available in Turkish at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

[25] Information provided by s stakeholder, June 2023.

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

[27] Open Democracy, ‘I Am Not Your Refugee: From All Over: LGBTQ Türkiye’, 6 October 2022, available at:

[28] Information provided by a stakeholder, June 2023.

[29] Information provided by a stakeholder, June 2023.

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

[31]  Examining the Experiences of Syrian Dom and Abdal Refugees in Accessing Fundamental Rights and Services in the Temporary Protection System in the Context of Discrimination, available at:

[32] LKD, Mardin Kuyubaş’larında Yaşanan Elektrik Kesintilerinin Mülteci Topluluğuna Etkileri Araştırma Raporu, 2020, available at:, (Access Date: 19.08.2021).

[33] Ibid.

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