Overview of main changes since the previous report update

Türkiye

Country Report: Overview of main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 17/08/22

Author

Independent

The report was last updated in May 2021.

2021 was a year of two halves. The first half of 2021 was not significantly different from 2020 in that the effects of the epidemic were still being felt until mid-2021 when COVID-19 measures loosened and vaccines were more widely available. Then in August 2021 the Taliban took over the government of Afghanistan. The migration flow from Afghanistan to Türkiye was the highest priority topic of 2021 for both the government and the general public. There was a public outcry against the irregular crossings at the Iranian border. The underlying economic crisis also shaped the discourse throughout the year

Access to and from the territory remained deadly with pushbacks continuing on the Greek-Turkish border and ‘blocking’ on the Turkish-Iranian border.

Access to registration was one of the biggest problems for people seeking international protection in Türkiye in 2021, perhaps because of fears of large numbers of arrivals. Registrations did still take place, but it was unclear which PDMMs were taking applications and all stakeholders reported barriers for applicants during the year. This was mentioned in particular for Afghans seeking protection but it was also difficult to register for temporary protection.

By May 2022, the lack of access to registration in many cities became official policy with the “deconcentration” policy to ensure that no more than 25% of inhabitants of a particular area were foreign citizens. This affects many bigger cities including İstanbul, Ankara and cities on the coast.

There was a total of 29,256 applicants for international protection in 2021, down from 31,334 in 2020. The number of registered temporary protection beneficiaries increased from 3,641,370 in 2020 to 3,737,369 in 2022, but this figure does not only include new arrivals.

Registrations are also frequently deactivated. For example, the foreign identity number of applicant gets deactivated if their application for international protection is rejected. When you appeal against the rejection of the international protection application, it gets activated again, but it gets deactivated once you receive a final rejection decision about the international protection application. In addition, if a deportation decision is issued, the applicant’s foreign identity number does not get reactivated. There have also been problems with temporary and international protection holders found to be outside of their satellite city having their registration deactivated.

This lack of registration affects people’s access to the most basic services and means that they are forced to live irregularly. For those who have their registration deactivated it even causes problems for children accessing education in schools.

Integration programmes were not widely discussed in 2021, perhaps because of the shadow of the economy.

By 14 August 2021, the Turkish government stated that they would suspend deportations to Afghanistan due to a lack of country-of-origin information.[1] However, this was not uniformly implemented. Van PDMM requested the deportation of 227 Afghans to Afghanistan in January 2022, for example. Case law on Afghanistan was not consistent despite the announcement that deportations would be suspended.

IOM’s assisted voluntary returns to Afghanistan were stopped after August 2021. However, PMM founded its own voluntary returns mechanism in 2021 (with the assistance of ICMPD and financed by the national budget), so if an Afghan wants to return to Afghanistan voluntarily this can happen through PMM’s voluntary return mechanism but not through IOM. This mechanism is less transparent; and the number of returnees is unclear. These returns were stopped for a couple of months following the fall of Kabul, but as of early 2022 the state is again sending back large numbers of Afghans to Afghanistan under ‘voluntary return.’[2]

There has been an upsurge in ‘voluntary’ returns to Syria too, including to Idlib region where the Turkish government is building houses and investing in schools and hospitals. UNHCR reports returns are mainly for family and work reasons.

The voluntary nature of the large number of reported returns is unclear, particularly when coupled with a hostile environment for refugees, a focus on return and the deactivation of registration for people outside of satellite cities.

As of March 2022 58,000 Ukrainians had come to Türkiye since the beginning of the conflict, with at least 30,000 arriving by land and 900 by air via third countries.[3] Some support programmes had already started including in Kuşadası Municipality where they have started an initiative for Ukrainian women who left their country to work online and earn income.[4] As of March 2022, it was reported that around 14,000 Russians who opposed the war had fled the Russian Federation to Türkiye. These included anti-war bloggers, academics, activists and businesspeople.[5]

The EU continued to provide funding including for education services and cash assistance programmes. In the context of the implementation of the EU-Türkiye readmissions to Türkiye were frozen throughout 2021. As of June 2022, 33,961 Syrians had been resettled (since 2016) to the EU under the 1:1 scheme.[6]

In other news Presidential Decree No 85 amending several presidential decrees was issued in October 2021. With this Presidential Decree, the status of the Directorate General of Migration was increased to the Presidency of Migration Management.

 

International protection

 

International protection procedure

 

  • Access to the territory: The effects of COVID-19 were still felt in early 2021. The border was closed and the weather conditions in winter were harsh. Pushbacks were prevalent and the political and media discourse turned negative to such an extent that some officials openly spoke of pushbacks as a positive thing. Access at air borders became more difficult than it had been in previous years, particularly at İstanbul airport.
  • Registration: The registration of applications was one of the biggest obstacles to people accessing international protection in Türkiye in 2021. During the year PDMMs in many big cities and on the coast or near the borders did not take new applications and referred people instead to so-called ‘satellite cities.’ Although registrations did not cease completely, they were reported as being ‘nearly impossible’ in several places, including for people with vulnerabilities. Inconsistencies in practice by PDMMs also created barriers. Meanwhile, persons in need of protection were left destitute with limited access to basic services and at risk of human rights violations.
  • Deconcentration: From May 2022, it is against the law for any region or area in Türkiye to have a population of foreign nationals that is more than one-quarter of the total population. This includes both people who have made Türkiye their permanent home and those who are merely visiting the country. This rule has been given the name the 25 percent limit or the 25 percent rule. 781 neighbourhoods in different provinces are now closed to foreign nationals seeking address registrations for temporary protection, international protection, and residence permits, as well as changes to their city of residence if they are foreign nationals with residence permits or are under temporary or international protection, with the exception of newborns and instances of nuclear family reunification. Because of this, no non-Turkish national will be able to select any of these 781 neighborhoods in Türkiye as their registered address for official matters, nor will they be able to ask the authorities to change their address to any of these places. Adana, Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, Muğla, and Antalya are some of the cities that fall into this category, along with a great number of others.[7]
  • Quality of the first-instance procedure did not improve: Similarly to previous years, in 2021 practice on the examination and the decision-making at first instance was not uniform across provinces. The quality of interviews, the assessment of evidence, the lack of identification of vulnerable groups, the lack of training of migration experts as well as the lack of available interpreters have been reported as particular concerns throughout the year. Structural problems in the international protection application procedures include a lack of uniform application of procedural rules at PDMMs and no information about the “opening” and “closing” of satellite cities.
  • Protection from refoulement: In December 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled on the suspensive effect of administrative appeals against deportation decisions. The Court said that the appeal has to suspend the deportation process otherwise, it violates the prohibition of ill-treatment and the right to an effective remedy.[8] In 2021, an increase was reported in the Constitutional Court’s decisions to reject objections to deportation decisions. Stakeholders noted more cases where the Court did not give an injunction, but the ECtHR did.[9]
  • Legal assistance: The legal aid project implemented by the Union of Bar Associations in Türkiye in collaboration with UNHCR continues to provide free legal assistance to asylum seekers at all stages of the international protection procedure, detention, as well as on civil law matters and women’s rights. The project does not serve those who have received a security code and as such limits those who can access its services. Overall, though, it was welcomed as a much-needed service, particularly in smaller cities.
  • Access to information: Access to information on the international protection procedure and applicable rights and obligations remains a serious matter of concern in practice. Information as to which PDMM office was open to registration was reported as a particular concern.

 

Reception conditions

 

  • The Cohesion Strategy and National Action Plan: The Cohesion Strategy and National Action Plan continued to be implemented in 2021 according to some stakeholders, however, it was not particularly visible. Some believed this was because of the public outcry about migration in 2021, meaning the government did not want to be seen making too much effort in terms of integration programmes.
  • Access to housing: One of the most prominent shortcomings of Türkiye’s legal framework for asylum remains the failure to commit to providing state-funded accommodation to asylum applicants. This results in important issues of homelessness or sub-standard living conditions putting them at serious risk of discrimination and serious violations. Refugees’ material conditions further considerably worsened due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 and the economic crisis of 2021.
  • Access to the labour market: Due to the nature of their work and frequent lockdowns and the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, many refugees, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of temporary protection struggled to find work and to cover their basic needs including protective equipment and hygiene products. The economic crisis in 2021 meant that many refugees and asylum seekers continued to struggle.
  • Access to education: COVID-19 still played a role in access to education in early 2021 and combined with the economic crisis meant that there were serious issues of child labour. All foreign students need to pay for university including Syrian beneficiaries of Temporary Protection and blue cardholders.

 

Detention of asylum seekers

 

  • Place of detention: The number of Removal Centres increased from 26 to 30 in 2021.
  • Forced or mandatory returns to Afghanistan: By 14 August 2021, the Turkish government stated that they would suspend deportations to Afghanistan due to a lack of country of origin information. However, this was not uniformly implemented. Van PDMM requested the deportation of 227 Afghans to Afghanistan in January 2022, for example. Case law on Afghanistan was not consistent despite the announcement that deportations would be suspended.
  • Voluntary returns to Afghanistan: IOM’s assisted voluntary returns to Afghanistan were stopped after August 2021. However, PMM founded its own voluntary returns mechanism in 2021 (with the assistance of ICMPD and financed by the national budget), so if an Afghan wants to return to Afghanistan voluntarily this can happen through PMM’s voluntary return mechanism but not through IOM. This mechanism is less transparent; and the number of returnees is unclear. These returns were stopped for a couple of months following the fall of Kabul, but as of early 2022 the state is again sending back Afghans to Afghanistan under ‘voluntary return.
  • Alternatives to detention: New amendments to the law in December 2019 included Article 57(A) LFIP which lays down alternatives to pre-removal detention including inter alia: residence at a specific address, working on a voluntary basis for public good, reporting duties, family based return, return counselling, financial guarantees and electronic tagging. These measures shall not be applied for more than 24 months and non-compliance shall be a ground for imposing pre-removal detention. A lack of an implementation regulation in 2020 meant that these measures were not implemented apart from reporting duties. They were not in evidence in 2021.
  • Appeals against detention orders: The seven-day limit was not applied uniformly across Türkiye but where it was applied, it caused difficulties for lawyers to be able to make an appeal in time for their clients.

Content of international protection

  • Residence permits and other administrative procedures: PDMMs ran address verification procedures for both international and temporary protection holders. Where they were not found at the correct place of registration, deportation orders were issued.
  • Resettlement: In 2021 despite the challenges of the pandemic, UNHCR submitted 12,270 files for resettlement and 7,400 individuals departed from Türkiye through resettlement procedures. 76% of these were Syrian, 12% Afghan and 12% from other nationalities.[11] It is expected that this will increase in 2022.[12] According to PMM statistics, 19,189 Syrians had been transferred to third countries between 2014 and June 2022, mainly to Canada, the US, the UK and Norway.[13]
  • Ukraine: Citizens of Ukraine can enter Türkiye with a passport or their national ID and stay in the country legally with a visa exemption for up to 90 days. [14] For citizens of Ukraine who entered Türkiye legally but have not been able to leave due to the conflict, as of March 2022, governorships were instructed to provide support with residence permit applications.[15] Later in March, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reported that 58,000 Ukrainians had come to Türkiye since the beginning of the conflict, with at least 30,000 arriving by land and 900 by air via third countries.[16] Some support programmes had already started including in Kuşadası Municipality where they have started an initiative for Ukrainian women who left their country to work online and earn income.[17] There were 551 Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks among the Ukrainian citizens who came to Türkiye, who were placed in dormitories in Edirne and Kırklareli, with support from AFAD. [18] Russian nationals can also travel to Türkiye visa-free for 90 days. As of March 2022, it was reported that around 14,000 Russians who opposed the war had fled the Russian Federation to Türkiye. These included anti-war bloggers, academics, activists and businesspeople.[19]

 

Temporary protection

 

Temporary protection procedure

 

  • Registration: The issues mentioned above on the registration of applicants for international protection also apply to the registration of individuals falling under the temporary protection procedure (i.e. unclarity as to which cities are open/closed for registration, lack of ID documents resulting in irregular migrants being at risk of deportation and administrative detention). Additional issues relate to the significant delays in security checks and pre-registration which may take several months depending on the province. This is exacerbated by a lack of interpreters and other practical impediments to registration such as errors on the part of PMM officials, which may only be corrected following time-consuming legal intervention. There was an additional issue in 2021 with ‘address verification’ procedures leading to the deactivation of registration for those outside their satellite city.
  • Voluntary return: Serious concerns continued to be expressed by stakeholders on the enforced signing of voluntary return forms in 2021. Conditions in removal centres were also mentioned as a factor that could push people to return. Türkiye started a housebuilding programme in several regions including Idlib and by May 2022 said 400-500 Syrians were returning to Syria voluntarily per week.

 

Content of temporary protection

 

  • Housing: The number of people in temporary accommodation centres continued to go down in 2021. The number of residents decreased from 56,970 in April 2021 to 49,349 as of June 2022.
  • Education: There were problems accessing education for the children of some temporary protection holders whose registration was deactivated after they were found to be living outside of their satellite city. The waiver of university fees for Syrian temporary protection holders was cancelled which stakeholders fear will lead to less registrations.

 

 

 

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

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

[3] Sertaç Bulur, ‘Minister Soylu: 58 thousand Ukrainians came to Türkiye since the war started’, Anadolu Ajansi, 22 March 2022, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3rpHTaq.

[4] Milliyet, ‘Ukrainian Asylum Seekers Return to Work,’ 11 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3jxmojB.

[5] Hurriyet Daily News, ‘Some 14,000 Russians flee to Türkiye after Ukraine war’, 21 March 2022. Available in English at: https://bit.ly/3zKGVub; Medyascope, ‘War is now a crime say Russian journalists fleeing Putin’s wrath,’ 22 March 2022, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3b7jwZO.

[6] See DGMM, Temporary protection: https://bit.ly/3wm3j97.

[7] PMM, ‘Neighbourhood Closure Announcement, 22 May 2022, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3Pb4bG8

[8] K.S, 2017/29420, 03.12.2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3wN67MD.

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

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

[11] UNHCR Türkiye: 2021 Operational Highlights, available at: https://bit.ly/3yuZMIK.

[12] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2021.

[13] PMM, Temporary protection, available at: https://bit.ly/3wKyP0K.    

[14] See Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: https://bit.ly/3EaBRzl.

[15] Anadolu Ajansi, ‘Humanitarian Aid sent from Türkiye to Ukraine’, 7 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3MjiVSb.

[16] Anadolu Ajansi, ‘Minister Soylu: 58 thousand Ukrainians came to Türkiye since the war started’, 22 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3rpHTaq.

[17] Milliyet, ‘Ukrainian Asylum Seekers Return to Work,’ 11 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3jxmojB.

[18] Anadolu Ajansi, ‘Humanitarian Aid sent from Türkiye to Ukraine’, 7 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3MjiVSb.

[19] Hurriyet Daily News, ‘Some 14,000 Russians flee to Türkiye after Ukraine war’, 21 March 2022. Available in English at: https://bit.ly/3zKGVub; Medyascope, ‘War is now a crime say Russian journalists fleeing Putin’s wrath,’ 22 March 2022, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3b7jwZO.

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