Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Turkey

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2005
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Turkey , 20 June 2005, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Asylum  Turkey deported three Iranian asylum seekers registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and an additional 41 asylum seekers before UNHCR could assess their applications, including 23 to their countries of origin. Heeding UNHCR's advisory not to return people to Iraq, Turkey deferred repatriation for 945 rejected Iraqis asylum seekers. The Government also permitted about 1,800 Somali and more than a hundred Sudanese failed asylum seekers to remain on humanitarian grounds, pending greater stability in their countries of origin.

Turkey maintained a geographic reservation on the 1967 Protocol to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) to limit to Europeans its obligations under the 1951 Convention. Turkish law protected asylum seekers from refoulement if they "register their claims within ten days; provide valid identity documentation; and receive resettlement assistance from UNHCR or directly from resettling countries." Chechens in particular had difficulty applying for asylum and renewing their residency.

Despite progress in curbing illegal transit migration, Turkey lacked an effective process to screen asylum seekers from the thousands of interdicted migrants it periodically caught in sweeps. The Passport Law of 1950 criminalized entrance into Turkey without valid travel documents.

Detention  Turkey detained 193 persons of concern to UNHCR, in addition to the 41 aforementioned deported asylum seekers. Turkey cited the 1951 Convention as the abiding legislation protecting asylum applicants from penalty for illegal entry or stay. A series of related regulations included the ten-day window in which applicants must register and laws related to the issuance of residence permits. Any violation of these laws subjected applicants to detention and deportation. While the law required courts to provide free interpreters, and bar associations offered pro bono legal aid, few refugees and asylum seekers managed to obtain such services.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  According to the 1950 Law on Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey (Law on Residence and Travel), refugees and asylum seekers possessing residence permits valid for at least six months could apply to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for a work permit – a condition reiterated in Turkey's 1994 asylum regulation. In practice, however, the authorities granted few permits to asylum seekers due to bureaucratic delays and lack of awareness of the law and, in some cases, officials arbitrarily refused to issue them. The Ministry issued permits directly to employers.

Most recognized refugees did not enjoy the protection of labor legislation or social security. Refugees did not have the right to hold title to or transfer business premises, farmland, homes, or other capital assets.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The 1950 Law on Residence and Travel stated that asylum seekers had to reside in places designated by the Ministry of Interior, typically one of 24 cities. Recognized refugees from Europe could reside anywhere in the country. Asylum applicants – documented or not – had to register with Turkish authorities within ten days of arrival, and reside in the town closest to their point of entry unless UNHCR recommended their transfer for security or other reasons. Asylum seekers also had to regularly present themselves to the local police, sometimes on a daily basis. Authorities in each city determined the terms of residence, and violators were subject to immediate deportation at the Government's discretion.

Clamping down on illegal migration as part of its European Union accession process, Turkey further restricted exit permits for refugees and asylum seekers, limiting them to third-country, family-reunification resettlement cases. Additionally, Turkey did not implement administrative procedures for issuing international travel documents to refugees or asylum seekers.

In April, Turkey offered temporary legal residence, as foreigners, to more than 1,000 Iranian asylum seekers originally holding refugee documentation from UNHCR in Iraq. Re-categorizing them, however, excluded the Iranians from benefits as asylum seekers or refugees, including third-country resettlement, health benefits, and protection from refoulement. UNHCR extended to these refugees some limited financial and medical assistance despite their changed status and did not rule out resettlement as a durable solution.

Turkish authorities also granted residence permits to some 375 asylum seekers who entered Turkey illegally in 2004.

Public Relief and Education  The Ministry of Interior had issued a circular to regional governors in 2002 extending healthcare, including medication, to recognized asylum seekers. Access, however, remained uneven. In 2004, the Government provided such coverage to nearly 200 asylum seekers. Additionally, more than 100 asylum seekers received cash assistance, and 2,170 received food, clothing, and rent subsidies.

The Turkish Constitution and 1994 asylum regulation offered education to refugees and asylum seekers, but only those with legal residence permits could enroll in public schools. In practice, prohibitive school fees and language barriers made enrollment unrealistic for most asylum seekers. However, some 400 refugee children entered public schools in 2004.

The Turkish Law of Association restricted how and where nongovernmental organizations could operate in the country. In January, an Istanbul court sentenced the chair of the Social Support and Culture Association of Migrants/ GÖÇ-DER to 10 months imprisonment for a report on forced displacement but converted the sentence to a fine. In July, Turkey passed a new Law of Associations more in line with EU standards.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  There were 350,000 to 1 million IDPs in Turkey. The Ministry of Interior counted less than 400,000 but its figure included only persons displaced as a result of village and hamlet evacuations in the southeast. It did not include people who fled violence stemming from the conflict between the Government and Kurdish separatists, which included evacuations, spontaneous movement, displacement from the southeast to the central and western parts of Turkey, and related rural-to-urban movement within the southeast itself.

In July, Parliament passed a law allowing persons who lost property in the conflict to apply for compensation but it imposed a one-year deadline that would be difficult to meet for IDPs who had left the country or lacked documentation and excluded IDPs who had accepted token compensation in the past. The Government claimed that about 128,000 IDPs had returned as of November.

The Government reportedly did not allow some IDPs to return to the southeast unless they signed a statement that they had been displaced by terrorism, rather than by government actions, and that they would not seek government assistance. In August, soldiers reportedly forced residents out of Ilicak in Sirnak Province but local officials allowed them to return three days later. In September, provincial officials evicted 20 village guards who were occupying the homes of returning Syriac Christian IDPs in Sarikoy. The IDPs reportedly paid the authorities 126 billion lira ($93,700) for their help.

The trial of 10 village guards in connection with the 2002 killing of 3 IDPs returning to their homes in Ugrak continued with one defendant in custody.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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