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  • Hasan Asgarov

Asylum in Turkey | Turkey as a Country for International Protection

Updated: Oct 8, 2023


1. Introduction

Worldwide diaspora communities are an increasingly powerful global force. There is frequent shifting and substantial migration in many parts of the world. The rise in migration has a number of causes, such as political complexity, poverty, rural underdevelopment, civil wars, ethnic conflicts, and remnants of colonialism. Migration affects a larger group of individuals from both the home region and the resettlement environment, whether it is forced or voluntarily. The need for services to support migrants and the difficulties they encounter grows along with the number of migrants. This is more true today than it has been in recent years as populations fleeing war and conflict zones deal with the global refugee crisis that is reshaping the demographics of populations in a great number of nations. (Cited from: 02 diaspora populations on my downloads)

Refugees are people who have been uprooted from their homes, communities, or nations and who have applied for entry into another state at a facility internationally, such as a camp for refugees. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, a person is considered a refugee if they are outside of their country of nationality and unable or unwilling to seek refuge there because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (UNHCR, 2002).

Migrants who leave their own country “voluntarily” are not compelled to do so. They may move in order to reunite with family members or in order to provide a better life for their families. They could also be trying to escape unfavorable situations, but they have more freedom to do so than refugees do, and they have access to more options. In actuality, however, immigrants frequently make the decision to leave their nation because they face difficulties like to those experienced by refugee communities.

Those who have sought for asylum or refugee status but have not yet heard a final decision are known as asylum seekers (UNHCR, n.d.b). They are people who cross international boundaries into another state to request refuge because they fear being persecuted at home. These people may have their petitions approved or denied by the host nation, or they may be held in custody for additional investigation or a hearing before an immigration judge.

Depending on the number and kind of conflicts occurring across the world, the number of forced migrants varies from year to year. Forced population relocation has increased in magnitude and complexity during the past several years. While wealthier nations like Australia, Canada, the United States, and Great Britain relocate some refugees and internally displaced people, developing nations are home to four-fifths of the world’s refugees (UNHCR, 2009). Almost all migrants struggle to reconstruct their life, regardless of the circumstances that lead to their migration. They both have gone through a transition that has changed their lives, which is made worse by the fact that it is frequently forced and the result of hardship. They experience pain and loss to varying degrees, including being cut off from family, being isolated, seeing their community fall apart, encountering prejudice in their new setting, and losing their identity, status, and means of support. Fresh cultures, faiths, climates, educational systems, economic realities, work conditions, languages, and social and political boundaries all provide new challenges to their capacity to lead successful lives when they relocate. They frequently experience bigotry and discrimination since they are minority in their adopted nations and localities, which is a new experience for them.

2. Types of International Protection under Turkish Law

International protection is a form of protection that is needed when states fail or are unable to fulfill their responsibility to guarantee the rights of their own citizens, as national protection is no longer possible for these individuals. Before examining the rights and obligations of foreigners benefiting from international protection in Turkey, it is necessary to identify the foreigners who fall within the scope of international protection under Turkish law. Foreigners who fall within the scope of international protection can be identified based on the type of international protection granted to them. The YUKK(Law on Foreigners and International Protection) sets out more than one type of international protection, which is generally based on the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as well as the EU’s basic regulations for the establishment of a common European Asylum System, as it is aimed to ensure that Turkey’s international protection system and practices are in line with the EU legislation and practices until Turkey becomes a full member of the EU, as explained in the general justification of the Law.

At the end of 2011, the UNHCR office in Turkey documented that around 11,000 people (need for resettlement) had applied for asylum in Turkey. With the overall number of active caseloads tripling in a little under three years, these numbers in September 2014 were close to 17,000 and 33,000, respectively. As of September 30, 2022, resettlement files of 11,803 persons were submitted to UNHCR Turkey offices.

The processes for applying for asylum in Turkey (hence referred to as “asylum seekers”) create numerous uncertainty and fears for non-European migrants. Asylum seekers frequently find themselves in situations of undetermined and unexpected waiting between each stage of these processes, which can take up to several years for both the application process for determining refugee status and the process for third country resettlement. The many parties engaged in the Turkish asylum system have continuously questioned whether an applicant for asylum is qualified and has a “genuine” refugee narrative.

2.1. Temporary Protection

Developed to find urgent solutions to meet the need for international protection in cases of mass asylum, temporary protection consists of free admission to the territory of the country, compliance with the principle of non-refoulement and meeting basic needs. As stated in the YUKK, unlike other international protection statuses, temporary protection is only provided to meet the urgent and temporary need for protection in cases of mass asylum. Therefore, international protection claims arising from the need for temporary protection are examined on a group basis, unlike individual international protection applications. As mentioned earlier, the YUKK left the regulations on temporary protection to the regulation to be issued on the subject. Therefore, the Temporary Protection Regulation regulates all procedural and substantive issues related to the temporary protection status, including the taking of a temporary protection decision, its duration, its expiry, the rights and obligations of those who will benefit from this status.

Temporary protection is defined in Article 91 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection as follows;

1. Temporary protection may be granted to foreigners who have been forced to leave their country, who are unable to return to the country from which they left, who arrive at or cross our borders en masse in search of emergency and temporary protection.

2. The admission of these persons to Turkey, their stay in Turkey, their rights and obligations, the procedures to be carried out upon their departure from Turkey, the measures to be taken against mass movements, the cooperation and coordination between national and international institutions and organizations, the determination of the duties and authorities of the institutions and organizations to be assigned at the center and provincial level shall be regulated by a regulation to be issued by the President.

2.2. The Conditions to Apply for Asylum in Turkey

Turkish legislation stipulates that if you are unable to leave Turkey due to the fear of;

being persecuted because of one’s ethnicity, race, religion, political views, or membership in a particular social group,

indiscriminate acts of violence that result from armed war on a national or worldwide scale,

being punished or treated inhumanely, abusively, or receiving the death penalty,

upon receiving “international protection status” from the Turkish government, the person will have the legal right to remain in Turkey.

2.3. Where? How? When? Why?

The asylum seeker may go immediately to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management (PDMM) (İl Göç İdaresi Müdürlüğü) in whichever city they are in order to register their claim for “international protection” in Turkey. In each Turkish province, the DGMM (Göç İdaresi Genel Müdürlüğü) is represented by the PDMM. In accordance with current practice, individuals who wish to apply for asylum in Turkey typically travel to Ankara to register with the UNHCR before approaching DGMM to begin their application for “international protection” with the Turkish Government, with the exception of those arriving from Syria. An application for international protection may be made at any time without restriction. However, those planning to request refuge in Turkey are recommended to contact the appropriate authorities and begin the asylum process as soon as they arrive in Turkey.

A designated person will be informed by UNHCR staff during registration which city in Turkey the individual has to go to in order to begin the “international protection” application process with the Turkish Government. The asylum applicant must travel to this city and see the PDMM office there within 15 days. Applications for “international protection” will be registered and processed by the PDMM office in this city.

By submitting an application for “international protection” with DGMM, a person who fled their home country because of fear of torture, the death sentence, or war will be able to remain in Turkey lawfully. As an asylum seeker, he or she won’t run the risk of being sent back to their own country or any other place where they could be in danger. The individual will also be entitled to take use of certain rights and services, including as healthcare, education, and employment, as an asylum seeker. Additionally, if the application is approved, the DGMM will offer the applicant “international protection status,” allowing them to remain in Turkey permanently or until they are able to find another state that would accept them for long-term residence.

As much as there are positive aspects of getting “international protection” status, it comes also with hardships. In Turkey, there is no assistance for housing given to asylum seekers. As a general rule, applicants for international protection are required to locate their own housing in the city where they have been assigned to live and to cover the costs of such housing on their own. However, Yozgat Reception and Accommodation Center may provide free lodging for candidates who are thought to be extremely vulnerable. In addition, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies should provide free lodging in state institutions for unaccompanied minors seeking international protection in Turkey.

Turkey does not allow applicants for international protection to pick their city of residency. The city where the individual will be ordered to go and reside until the conclusion of his or her asylum proceedings in Turkey will be assigned by DGMM officials. If the person contacts the UNHCR office in Ankara after arriving in Turkey rather than the DGMM initially, UNHCR representatives will direct them to the city that the DGMM has allocated for them. The PDMM officials will advise whether the applicant should stay in that city or report to another city to continue their “international protection” application and to reside there until the conclusion of the asylum process if they are approached by the applicant’s local PDMM office before the UNHCR.

The applicant can, however, indicate his or her preference to PDMM and/or UNHCR representatives during registration if there is a certain city they prefer or where their close relatives reside. There is no assurance that they will be able to take it into account.It is crucial that the applicant arrive at the allotted place of residency within 15 days, or, if the applicant has already moved in, that they never leave the city without the PDMM’s express written permission. The asylum seeker will be seen to have “implicitly withdrew” their application for international protection if they leave their designated city of residency without authorization.

Furthermore, there is a list of provinces where it is closed for refugee residency registration. These can be put like below;

1. Provinces closed to temporary protection registration; Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Bursa, Çanakkale, Düzce, Edirne, Hatay, İstanbul, İzmir, Kırıkkale, Kocaeli, Muğla, Sakarya, Yalova.

2. Provinces closed to international protection; Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Bartın, Bursa, Diyarbakır, Edirne, İstanbul, İzmir, Kırklareli, Muğla, Muş, Osmaniye, Rize, Tekirdağ, Tunceli.

Finally to say, it is a must that all applicants for asylum in Turkey must go through a process known as “refugee status determination” (RSD) in order to begin their case. This approach requires a number of processes, which often start with pre-registration. The next step is a registration appointment, during which the applicant is questioned about their past and informed of the conditions that must be met in order for the Turkish government to pursue their application for temporary asylum with the UNHCR. The applicant is also assigned a date for the asylum interview, during which a UNHCR eligibility officer interviews them extensively about their personal motivations for leaving their home country.

3. Conclusion on Time Consuming and Rugged Process

Even when one is successful in receiving recognition as a refugee, waiting and temporal and spatial uncertainty continue since the relocation procedure necessitates a further application. After the “refugee status determination” RSD interview, if the asylum seeker is determined to be a refugee, the file is transferred to the UNHCR’s sustainable solutions section, where the individual has a second interview to assess whether they are eligible for resettlement. The UNHCR sends the paperwork to the embassies of the nations that accept resettled refugees from Turkey, namely the US, Canada, Australia, and Finland, if the applicant is determined to be qualified.

The disciplinary mechanisms of today’s politics in Turkey assume a variety of shapes, including endless waiting, ongoing, judgmental inquisitions, unpredictability of status, mobility restrictions, illegibility of responsible players, and the vagueness of legislation. The subjective effects of this approach to governance via discomfort and uncertainty are likewise unpredictable. Some asylum seekers who reside in Turkey, and more specifically in satellite cities, face constant waiting and a feeling of having their lives momentarily stopped or frozen, which is sometimes equated to paralysis.




Atty. Lider Tanrikulu

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