Legal assistance for review of detention

Türkiye

Country Report: Legal assistance for review of detention Last updated: 17/08/22

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Independent

Detained international protection applicants must be given opportunity to meet with legal representatives, notary and UNHCR officials, if they wish so.[1] Persons who do not have the financial means to pay a lawyer are to be referred to the state-funded Legal Aid Scheme in connection with “judicial appeals” pertaining to any acts and decisions within the international protection procedure.[2]

However, the functioning of the Legal Aid Scheme in Türkiye requires the applicant to approach the bar association to make a formal request for legal aid. It remains very difficult for a detained asylum seeker to access the legal aid mechanism by him or herself, especially since the authorities do not provide information on the right to legal assistance in a language understood by the individual.[3] In most cases, either an NGO or UNHCR will alert the bar association and seek to ensure the appointment of a legal aid lawyer to the person. Lawyers appointed by bar associations have ties and work with NGOs in individual cases. However, it is observed from the field that no NGO has direct access to Removal Centres for the purpose of providing legal assistance. This is even impossible in practice if the applicant is classified as a foreign terrorist fighter.[4]

The requirement of a notarised power of attorney poses an additional constraint (see Regular Procedure). Since detained asylum seekers are not issued an identification card before they have had the possibility to register with the PDMM, it is impossible for them to notarise a power of attorney.[5] Furthermore, issuing a power of attorney and interpretation entail financial costs, which vary depending on the distance of the Removal Centre and the language of the individual. Some notaries did not accept requests from refugees who had a travel permit but who were registered in other cities.[6]

In 2018 the Administrative Court of Ankara held that access to legal counselling is a basic human right and should be granted to refugees without the requirement of a power of attorney.[7] Moreover, when a lawyer is appointed by a bar association to represent a person under the Legal Aid Scheme, the official appointment letter can serve as a temporary substitute in place of a notarised power of attorney. In practice, the courts accept representation of detained applicants under a legal aid appointment document without a power of attorney.[8] Unfortunately, by 2021, the judges changed and in Ankara power of attorney was again required to represent clients in appeals against deportation decisions. The court charged lawyers who could not present a power of attorney within the seven days and rejected the cases in the final decision.[9]

In Van, officials in the administrative detention center are in charge of ‘deciding’ whether a person needs legal assistance or not. For the last 8 years, they have not requested a lawyer, which prevents the functioning of the legal aid system. The governorship of Van announces that hundreds of “irregular migrants” get caught every day. However, from January-March 2022, the total number of lawyers assigned through legal aid was only 15.[10] People have almost no access to the legal aid system from removal centers. For example, one stakeholder reported that a client was threatened after they sought legal assistance. Asylum-seekers seeking a lawyer’s help get discouraged and intimidated by officials. The period they spend in administrative detention is extended due to systematic pressure. Some clients refrain withdraw from legal assistance for this reason.

Van is listed as one of the pilot provinces in the UTBA project. This project can be bureaucratic and it can take up to a month to finalize the assignment of a lawyer. During this time, that applicant may even get deported. According to one stakeholder, the UTBA project does not strengthen the capacity of legal aid permanently, and more structural, permanent change is needed.[11]

In İstanbul too there were concerns that the UTBA project can slow down the process of legal aid. There were also concerns that a large number of people were being trained at any one time and this could cause problems of quality in legal aid services. UTBA may be more needed in smaller cities rather than bigger cities like İstanbul

In Ankara and Central Anatolia, there was a problem was with the lawyer’s appointments at removal centres. When there is an ongoing project (UTBA), lawyers are easily appointed, but the appointments are not always made, particularly towards the end of the year, due to the end date of the project. This has created significant problems for people in removal centres.

In Ankara, especially in legal aid appointments to removal centres, the power of attorney fee needs to be paid either by the client or by an NGO due to a change of the application of the 1st Administrative Court. In the past lawyers have paid it themselves because UTBA project reimbursement is too slow. At least one bar association does not appoint lawyers in deportation cases for this reason.[12]

In the Aegean region those who need legal assistance are not always in removal centres where the UTBA is in place, for example, Malatya and Çorum.

UNHCR has run several workshops with removal centres, PMM, and bar associations on issues such as lawyers’ problems, lack of interpreters, access to removal centers, and refugees’ access to legal aid. UNHCR also supports removal centres with internal monitoring mechanisms and information provision for asylum seekers when they first come to removal centres. The EU Delegation has a project to provide legal aid support to removal centers in and around İzmir and provide mentoring support to young lawyers. Interpreters, social workers and psychologists have been employed by removal centres in the framework of this project.[13]

Obstacles for lawyers in accessing removal centres throughout 2020-2021 are also described in Access to detention facilities.

 

 

 

[1] Article 68(8) LFIP.

[2] Article 81(2) LFIP.

[3] Information provided by a lawyer of the Antakya Bar Association, February 2018; a lawyer of the Adana Bar Association, February 2018; a lawyer of the Mersin Bar Association, February 2018.

[4] Information provided by a lawyer of the Ankara Bar Association, January 2018; a lawyer of the Adana Bar Association, February 2018; a lawyer of the Gaziantep Bar Association, March 2018.

[5] İzmir Bar Association, İzmir Geri Gönderme Merkezlerinde Adalete Erişim Hakkı Çerçevesinde Yaşanan Sorunlar Raporu, July 2017, 18-19. See also Refugee Rights Türkiye, Barriers to the right to an effective legal remedy: The problem faced by refugees in Türkiye in granting power of attorney, February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/1PLX9SH.

[6] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2020.

[7] Evrensel, ‘Yargı: Mülteciler vekaletnamesiz avukat hizmeti alabilir’, 20 January 2018, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2CG9RCl.

[8] Information provided by a lawyer from the İzmir Bar Association, February 2019. See also District Court of Ankara, 10th Chamber, Decision 2017/1267, 20 December 2017.

[9] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[10] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

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

[12] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[13] For more information on the EU project, see: https://bit.ly/3yBMI37.

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