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Although most refugees seeking asylum in Turkey are from non-European countries, Turkey’s instrument of accession to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees limits the scope of the Convention’s application to European asylum seekers, and Turkey’s Settlement Act still places emphasis on persons of Turkish descent and culture as the immigrants eligible for settlement in the country and possible citizenship.  While Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection has instituted major changes in the country’s asylum system, most current asylum seekers are placed under “temporary protection” for settlement in another country rather than being accepted as refugees for settlement in Turkey.  In the case of the influx of migrants from Syria, Turkish authorities have over the years expanded their rights and protections, but they remain barred from gaining regular refugee status and instead are classified as beneficiaries of temporary protection.

Applications for refugee status must be filed in person in provincial offices of the Directorate General of Migration Management.  Such applications are registered and the applicant is then scheduled for an interview.  The authorities issue the applicant and any accompanying family members an International Protection Applicant Identity Document, valid for six months, upon completion of the interview.  Assessment of the application is to be finalized within six months of the date of its registration.  Under some circumstances, such as giving the authorities misleading information, an application is handled under an accelerated procedure that may result in its being rejected.  

Under the terms of temporary protection, the authorities provide for refugees’ basic needs and also furnish social services, translation services, IDs, travel documents, access to primary and secondary education, and work permits.  Applicants for protection may be obliged by the authorities to live in designated reception and accommodation centers or in a specific location, and to report to the authorities in a certain manner or at certain intervals. 

I.  General Background

In the not too distant past, Turkey was viewed primarily as “a country of emigration (or migrant-sending country) and a source country for asylum seekers.”[1] With the advent of the new century, however, Turkey has seen changing migration patterns with respect to irregular labor migrants, transit migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and regular migrants.[2]  Over the past two decades, “as a result of intense migratory movements,” Turkey has emerged as a “transit country,” and morphed from a country of emigration to one of immigration.[3]

According to a 2016 profile report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011 Turkey “has maintained an emergency response of a consistently high standard.”  Under a temporary protection regime, the government has ensured “non-refoulement and assistance in 22 camps, where an estimated 217,000 people are staying,” and at the time the report was issued was said to be constructing two additional camps.[4]  Antonio Guterres, former United Nations high commissioner for refugees, in praising Turkey’s efforts to open its borders to large numbers of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, has reportedly stated that “Turkey accepted 11% of all refugees”[5] of this type and that “Turkey is now home to around 45 per cent of all Syrian refugees in the region.”[6]   The number of Syrian refugees was said to have reached nearly 1.7 million as of autumn 2015 (with some 2.2 million Syrians having entered the country from the outbreak of the Syrian civil war to December 2015).[7]  

Nevertheless, a June 2015 report issued by the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), covering 2014, had stated that “Turkey’s legal framework hinders the integration of migrants,” and the country “is failing to integrate migrants amid an increased flow of refugees from Syria.”[8] The report criticized the fact that there were “restricted rights and little-to-no-state support” for immigrant workers and their families, and stated that “Turkey also has the weakest protections against discrimination because a dedicated anti-discrimination law and agency are still lacking and pending approval by Parliament.”[9] 

Moreover, the European Union is pressuring Turkey to control the number of refugees flowing to Europe.  European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, reportedly frustrated by the continued streaming of refugees into Greece despite a November 2015 European Union-Turkey agreement to stem the flow (see discussion below), asserted that Turkey must produce results before the February 18–19, 2016, summit of EU leaders, stating that, despite the action plan having been agreed upon more than two months earlier, “we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants.”[10]  

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II. Some Major Laws and Policies Applicable to Refugees [11]

A. Law on Settlement

Between 1934 and 2006, Turkey’s Law on Settlement, Law No. 2510, regulated the formal settlement of foreigners in Turkey, “[restricting] the right of asylum and immigration only to the persons of ‘Turkish descent and culture.’ ”[12]  When a new Law on Settlement was adopted in 2006, the emphasis on that background was retained, and so “it is understood that in Turkey, the channel of facilitated formal settlement, which also leads to citizenship in a short period of time, is still reserved for the individuals of such groups.”[13]

B.  Law on Foreigners and International Protection

It was not until the 1950s, when Turkey joined the newly created UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (it also subsequently adopted the Convention’s 1967 Protocol), that Turkey had any specific legislation on migration management other than the Settlement Law of 1934.[14]   In 1999, Turkey reached a turning point in its bid for accession to the European Union, and thereafter it began to introduce a new policies and laws, among them the 2005 National Action Plan for Adoption of Acquis on Asylum and Migration, aimed at modernizing the country’s legal structure on migration.[15]  In April 2013, the Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP), “the first inclusive and updated act about migration-related issues,” was adopted; it became effective in April 2014.[16]   The purpose of the LFIP is to

regulate the principles and procedures with regard to foreigners’ entry into, stay in and exit from Turkey, and the scope and implementation of the protection to be provided for foreigners who seek protection from Turkey, and the establishment, duties, mandate and responsibilities of the Directorate General of Migration Management under the Ministry of Interior.[17]

C.  Temporary Protection Regulation

On October 22, 2014, the Temporary Protection Regulation was issued.  It pertains to, among other matters,

temporary protection proceedings that may be provided to foreigners, who were forced to leave their countries and are unable to return to the countries they left and arrived at or crossed our borders in masses to seek urgent and temporary protection and whose international protection requests cannot be taken under individual assessment.[18]

D.  Law on Work Permits for Foreigners

The Law on Work Permits of Foreigners prescribes that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is to make a final decision on a foreigner’s application for a work permit within thirty days.[19]  If the decision is negative, the applicant can appeal it within thirty days to an administrative court.[20]  To access the labor market, the asylum seeker and the prospective employer must jointly file the papers for the work permit.[21]  Restrictions may apply, however, for a certain period, “where the situation of the labour market and developments in the working life as well as sectoral and economic conditions necessitate,” or to certain sectors or administrative/geographic areas.[22]  The Ministry of Labour and Social Security decides whether or not to approve work permit applications on the basis of certain “evaluation criteria,” e.g., “for a work place to be eligible for hiring a foreign national, at least five Turkish citizens must be employed at the same work place.  For every additional foreign national to be hired, the work place is obliged to demonstrate another 5 Turkish employees.”[23]

E.  EU/Turkey 2015 Joint Action Plan

On November 29, 2015, the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement under which the EU will give Turkey €3 billion (about US$3.25 billion) to manage the refugee crisis in the country, aimed at the 2.2 million Syrian refugees and 300,000 Iraqis, and to prevent their reaching EU countries.  Under the Joint Action Plan, “Turkey will be in charge of sea patrols and enforce border restrictions to manage the flow of refugees to Europe[,] . . . combat human trafficking and passport forgeries, and return refugees to their countries of origin if they do not meet refugee requirements” thereby becoming a “ ‘wall of defense’ against the flood of refugees.”[24] 

On February 10, 2016, the European Commission published a report on Turkey’s progress in implementing the agreement.[25]  Among the conclusions and recommendations are that Turkey needs to “make significant progress in preventing irregular departures of migrants and refugees from its territory”; take urgent action to align their visa policy with that of the EU, “prioritising those countries that are a source of irregular migration to the EU”; align its draft law on personal data protection with European standards and swiftly adopt it to allow closer operational cooperation between Turkey and Europol, Eurojust, and law enforcement agencies of EU Member States; step up bilateral cooperation with Greece in border surveillance, anti-migrant-smuggling efforts, and implementation of bilateral readmission obligations; and strengthen actions against human smuggling in coastal areas.[26]  For its part, the EU, based on the agreement on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, must begin as soon as possible to deliver assistance and address the needs of refugees under the agreement.  Moreover, the Commission and Turkey should be ready to reprioritize the existing assistance programs to Turkey “to respond rapidly to newly emerging needs” in the area of migration.[27]  

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III. Rules for Admission of Refugees and Handling Refugee Claims

Although Turkey is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol,[28] its instrument of accession stipulates that the Turkish government will maintain a geographic limitation pursuant to the Convention’s article 1b, limiting the scope of the Convention’s application in Turkey “only to persons who have become refugees as a result of events occurring in Europe.”[29]  Therefore, as one scholar has pointed out, “Turkey can only legally accept European asylum seekers as ‘refugees’ stricto sensu,” even though “the majority of asylum seekers in Turkey originate from non-European states, notably from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan.”[30]  In practice, the geographic limitation is only partially implemented because

. . . Turkey allows the . . . (UNHCR) to operate and conduct refugee status determination [RSD] procedures whereby refugee status is jointly granted by the UNHCR and the Ministry of Interior with the underlying condition that accepted refugees do not locally integrate but instead resettle in a third country.  Considering its geographical proximity to conflict-ridden states, Turkey’s geographical limitation disqualifies a vast number of asylum seekers and refugees seeking permanent protection from the Turkish state.[31]

In accordance with the LFIP, Turkey grants non-European refugees limited protection under one of several types of temporary status—“conditional refugee status, humanitarian residence permit, or temporary protection” (see also “Definition of Refugees” discussion, below)—allowing them to stay in the country until a long-term place of settlement outside Turkey is found for them.[32]  Thus, in general, asylum-seekers apply to the Directorate General for Migration Management for protection, but “[d]epending on their circumstances and country of origin, they may be eligible to apply to the UNHCR” to attain refugee status.[33]

More recently, Syrians have been placed as a group under temporary protection status, while non-Syrian, non-European applicants may apply to the UNHCR for RSD procedures to be carried out.  If an applicant is deemed to be a refugee according to the UNHCR’s mandate, the UNHCR will attempt to resettle the person or family in a third country; the process may take years, however, because the UNHCR is not equipped to handle the current numbers of asylum-seekers in Turkey.[34]

A.  Definition of Refugees 

A refugee is defined under the LFIP as follows:

A person who as a result of events occurring in European countries and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his citizenship and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it, shall be granted refugee status upon completion of the refugee status determination process.[35]

The LFIP also provides international protection to “conditional refugees”—persons who are unable or unwilling to return to the country of their former residence based on the same grounds as refugees but as a result of events occurring outside European countries.  Conditional refugee status is granted upon completion of the refugee status determination process, and those granted such status are permitted to reside in Turkey temporarily until they are resettled in a third country.[36]

Finally, subsidiary protection is granted, upon completion of status determination procedures, to a foreigner or stateless person who cannot qualify as either a refugee or a conditional refugee, if return to the country of origin or country of former habitual residence would have certain dire consequences, such as imposition of the death penalty, torture, or a serious threat of indiscriminate violence due to armed conflict.[37]

Designating an individual as being under subsidiary protection “represents a shift away from prior policy, which classified those who did not qualify for refugee status simply as guests—the designation [that] early flows of Syrians received.”[38]  Now, most Syrians classified as refugees by the UNHCR fall under the subsidiary protection status created in the LFIP.[39]  The relevant provision, article 91, states as follows:

(1) Temporary protection may be provided for foreigners who have been forced to leave their country, cannot return to the country that they have left, and have arrived at or crossed the borders of Turkey in a mass influx situation seeking immediate and temporary protection.

(2) The actions to be carried out for the reception of such foreigners into Turkey; their stay in Turkey and rights and obligations; their exit from Turkey; measures to be taken to prevent mass influxes; cooperation and coordination among national and international institutions and organisations; determination of the duties and mandate of the central and provincial institutions and organisations shall be stipulated in a Directive to be issued by the Council of Ministers.[40]

B.  Administration of the Law Related to Foreigners and Refugees

With the entry into force of the LFIP in April 2014, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) under the Ministry of Interior “has become the sole institution responsible for asylum matters. While Turkey still maintains the geographical limitation to the 1951 Convention, the law provides protection and assistance for asylum-seekers and refugees, regardless of their country of origin.”[41]  It was not until May 18, 2015, that the DGMM took over provincial migration management duties in all eighty-one provinces from the Turkish National Police.[42]  Before the adoption of the LFIP, all matters related to foreigners, including the processes for determining the status of asylum applications, were handled by these police, who are under the Department of Foreigners, Borders and Asylum under the Directorate of General Security of the Ministry of Interior.[43]  Particulars of the DGMM are covered under Part Five of the LFIP.

C.  Adjustments to Refugee Handling Procedure Due to Refugee Crisis

As a result of the limitation clause in Turkey’s instrument of accession to the UN Convention on Refugees, Syrian migrants in Turkey cannot register with the Turkish government as refugees, nor are they being registered and given the option to go through a UNHCR RSD process “due to the enormity of the caseload.”[44]  Before the implementation of the LFIP, protection afforded to Syrians fleeing to Turkey “was in the form of an ad hoc solution.”[45]  With the Law’s entry into force, Syrian nationals apply to the Turkish government for temporary protection and, “[b]ased on vulnerabilities and other criteria, Syrians may be referred by the government for resettlement to a third country.”[46]  The Temporary Protection Regulation was issued on October 22, 2014, in conformity with article 91 of the LFIP.  It does not specifically mention refugees from Syria or Iraq; rather it pertains to, among other matters,

temporary protection proceedings that may be provided to foreigners, who were forced to leave their countries and are unable to return to the countries they left and arrived at or crossed our borders in masses to seek urgent and temporary protection and whose international protection requests cannot be taken under individual assessment . . . .[47]

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IV.  Border Processing of Refugees

The provisions of the LFIP apply to foreigners’ activities and actions and to (1) the international protection to be afforded them in cases of individual protection claims made at borders, designated border crossing points (“border gates”), or within Turkey; (2) “the immediate temporary protection to be provided to foreigners in cases when there is a large influx into Turkey and where they cannot return back to the country they were forced to leave”; and (3) “the structure, duties, mandate and responsibilities of the Directorate General of Migration Management.”[48]  At the same time, the Law states that it will “be implemented without prejudice to provisions of international agreements to which Turkey is party to and specific laws.”[49]

In general, entry into and exit from Turkey is through the border gates, and foreigners must submit a valid passport or travel document to the border officials at the time of entry or exit.[50]  Border-crossing document checks can also be carried out on vehicles en route to Turkey or in transit areas at airports.[51]  Checks will be conducted at the time of entry to determine whether or not the foreigner falls within the scope of persons who are to be refused entry.[52]  Such persons include those who do not hold a passport, travel document, visa, or residence or work permit or whose documents or permits have been obtained deceptively or are false.[53]

If a comprehensive check of a foreigner is required, the person may only be held for a maximum of four hours, during which time he or she may either return to his/her country at any time or wait for the completion of the admission process (which is not limited to the four-hour period). The principles and procedures governing comprehensive checks are to be set forth in a Directive.[54] The LFIP states, however, that the abovementioned conditions “shall not be construed and implemented to prevent the international protection claim.”[55] 

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V.  Steps Taken to Determine Entitlement to Refugee Status/Protection

A.  Filing

Applicants for international protection must file an application in person with the relevant governorate (provincial administration), which carries out the actions related to the application; if an application is lodged with law enforcement units at the border gates or within the country, it will immediately be reported to the governorate.[56]  While every foreigner or stateless person has the right to apply on his/her own behalf, an applicant may also apply on behalf of accompanying family members seeking protection on the same grounds.[57] 

In the case of international protection claims lodged by unaccompanied children, the best interest of the child will be the primary consideration in all actions related to such children, and as of the date the application is received, the provisions of Turkey’s Child Protection Law will apply.[58]

Person with special needs are to be given priority with respect to the rights and actions set forth in the LFIP regarding international protection.[59]

The LFIP also states that applicants for international protection “shall not be subject to administrative detention solely for lodging an international protection claim,”[60] and that imposition of administrative detention “is an exceptional action.[61]

B.  Registration and Control

On May 18, 2015, the DGMM launched its registration database, GOC-NET, “a platform for streamlining all refugees and asylum-seekers into a national database system.”[62]  As of October 1, 2015, Turkey had registered 2,072,290 Syrian refugees.[63]

The governorates must register all international protection applications.[64]  The applicant has the obligation to report identity information truthfully; the applicant should also submit identification and travel documents to the competent authorities at the time of registration if such documents are available.  To that end, a search may be conducted of the applicant and his/her belongings.[65]  If at the time of registration there is no documentation on the applicant’s identity, the determination of identity will be made based on information obtained from the comparison of personal data and from investigation.[66] 

At the time of registration, the authorities are also to take information about applicants’ reasons for leaving their country of origin/former habitual residence; their post-departure experiences and events that led to their filing the application; and “their way, means of transportation and routes of entering Turkey.”[67]  If applicants previously applied for or are beneficiaries of international protection in another country, information and documentation regarding their application or protection status will also be taken.[68] 

Applicants are informed at the time of registration of the time and place of their interview for determining their status.[69]  If an applicant has been assessed as posing a public health threat, he or she will undergo medical screening.[70]  Applicants are also to be given information about the application procedures that will be followed; about applicant rights and obligations and how to comply with them, and the possible consequences of failure to comply or to cooperate with the authorities; and about appeal procedures and time limits.[71]

Upon registration, applicants are issued, without paying a fee, a registration document valid for thirty days that contains identity information and indicates that the holder has applied for international protection.  If necessary, the document can be extended by additional thirty-day validity periods.  The registration document enables the holder to stay in Turkey.[72]

C.  Grounds for Exclusion from International Protection

An applicant will be excluded from international protection if he or she is “receiving protection from organs or agencies of the United Nations” other than the UNHCR; if he or she is recognized by the former country of residence as having the rights and obligations attached to that country’s nationals; or if “there is strong evidence to believe that they are guilty of offenses” set forth in article 1F of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[73]  Those offenses include “a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity . . . ; a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee; . . . [and] acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”[74]

D.  Inadmissible Applications and Withdrawal of Applications

The LFIP sets forth three types of grounds on which applications for international protection may be deemed inadmissible, including if the applicant repeats the same application without providing a different reason, separately makes an application without a well-founded reason, or has arrived in Turkey from a country that was the applicant’s first country of asylum or a safe third country for the applicant.[75]  Upon any of these circumstances becoming known during any stage of assessment of the application, the assessment will be terminated, and the party concerned or his/her lawyer or legal representative will be notified of the decision on the inadmissibility of the application.[76]

E.  Interview

Applicants are given in-person interviews “within thirty days from the date of registration, with a view to reach[ing] an effective and fair decision.”[77]  The applicant must cooperate in providing the officials with all information and documents that support the protection application.[78]  After each interview, an interview report is to be drafted and a copy is to be given to the interviewee.[79]

F.  Identity Document

Upon completion of the interview, the authorities issue the applicant and any accompanying family members an International Protection Applicant Identity Document.  Valid for six months, it indicates the international protection application and bears the holder’s alien identification number.  The period of validity of the identity documents for applicants whose application assessment could not be finalized will be extended for an additional six months.[80]  The identity document serves as a substitute for a residence permit and is not subject to a fee.[81] 

G.  Decision

The assessment of an application is to be finalized within six months of the date of its registration by the Directorate General; the applicant will be informed if a decision cannot be reached within that period.[82]  Decisions are made on an individual basis; however, an application lodged on behalf of a family will be evaluated as a single application, with the decision applicable to the whole family, with the proviso that exclusion of the applicant from international protection will not require the exclusion of the family members as long as none of the reasons for exclusion applies to them.[83] 

In making the decision, the authorities take into consideration “the personal circumstances of the applicant and current general conditions in the country of origin . . . or former . . . residence.”[84]  A decision may be made that the applicant does not need international protection if he or she can be given protection “against the threat of persecution or serious harm in a certain region of the country of citizenship or former residence, and if the applicant is in a condition to safely travel to and settle in that region of the country,”[85] but the emergence of such circumstances will not prevent the application from being fully assessed.[86]

H.  Accelerated Procedure for Possible Disqualification

The LFIP lists a number of cases in which an application will be evaluated under an accelerated procedure because the applicant has taken certain actions that may negatively affect the application—namely, where the applicant

a)   has never mentioned elements that would require international protection when presenting reasons while lodging the application;

b)   misled the authorities by presenting untrue or misguiding information or documents or, by withholding information or documents that might negatively impact the decision;<

c)   has destroyed or disposed of identity or travel documents in bad faith in order to make determination of identity or citizenship difficult;

ç)   has been placed under administrative detention pending removal;

d)   has applied solely to postpone or prevent the implementation of a decision that would lead to his/her removal from Turkey;

e)   pose[sic] a public order or public security threat or, has previously been removed from Turkey on such grounds; [or]

f)    repeats the application after the [initial] application is considered to have been withdrawn.[87]

An applicant undergoing the evaluation of his/her application under an accelerated procedure is to be interviewed “no later than three days as of the date of application,” and the application assessment is to be completed “no later than five days after the interview.”[88]  If a longer period is required to assess the application, it may be taken out of the accelerated procedure.[89]  The accelerated procedure is not used to evaluate applications lodged by unaccompanied children.[90]

I.  Review and Appeal

The LFIP provides for administrative review and judicial appeal of asylum decisions.[91]  Applicants and beneficiaries of international protection may be represented by a lawyer for activities and actions related to international protection, if they pay for such representation; if the applicant/beneficiary cannot afford the attorney fees for judicial appeals, legal assistance will be provided pursuant to Turkey’s law on lawyers.[92]

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VI. Accommodations and Assistance for Refugees

A. Basic Needs

Social assistance services and benefits are to be provided to applicants and international protection beneficiaries in need.[93]  As of March 2015, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey’s Prime Ministry, along with the Turkish Red Crescent, had established twenty-five Syrian refugee camps.  These camps reportedly have markets, reliable heating, religious services, communications infrastructure, firefighting services, interpreters, psychosocial support, banking services, and cleaning services.”[94]  Camp residents are given three meals a day and also electronic cards that provide some money for personal needs.”[95]  An applicant for asylum who is found to be in need may also be provided an allowance.[96]

The relevant Turkish laws on social security and medical insurance[97] apply to those applicants and international protection beneficiaries who are not covered by medical insurance and who do not have the means to afford medical services.  To pay the premiums for medical insurance, funds are allocated to the DGMM budget, but those who receive coverage are asked to contribute in full or in part, in proportion to their financial means.[98]

The Ministry for Family and Social Policies places unaccompanied minors “in suitable accommodation facilities, in the care of their adult relatives or, a foster family, taking the opinion of the unaccompanied child into account.”[99]  If suitable conditions are available, minors over sixteen years of age may be placed in reception and accommodation centers.[100]  To the extent possible, siblings are to be placed together.[101]  “Victims of torture, sexual assault or, other serious psychological, physical or sexual violence” are to be given “adequate treatment. . .  in order to eliminate the damage caused by such actions.”[102]

B. Translation Services

Upon request, applicants are provided with translation and/or interpretation services at each stage of the application process.[103]

C. ID Cards

Persons granted refugee status are issued an identity document, valid for three years at a time, that bears their alien identification number.[104]  For persons granted conditional refugee or subsidiary protection status, the identity document issued has a one-year validity period.[105]  The identity documents of refugees and conditional refugees/subsidiary protection beneficiaries, which are issued without charge, substitute for a residence permit.  The DGMM determines the format and content of these documents.[106]

D. Travel Documents

In conformity with the Convention on Refugees, the Turkish governorates issue refugees a travel document.[107]  Requests for travel documents made by conditional refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries are evaluated within the scope of article 18 of the Passport Law, which addresses passports bearing the stamp “Exclusively for foreigners” (yabancılara mahsus).[108]

E. Education

The LFIP provides that applicants and international protection beneficiaries and their family members are to have access to primary and secondary education.[109]  In September 2014 the Circular on Foreigners’ Access to Education (No. 2014/21) was adopted.[110]  The Circular and the Temporary Protection Regulation make registration with the Turkish authorities a prerequisite for access to education.  Syrian refugee children must also provide “a residence permit, temporary protection identification or the Foreigners’ Identification Card” to enroll in a school; without such a document, the children may enroll as “guests.”[111] 

F. Work 

The LFIP provides that an applicant for asylum or a conditional refugee may apply for a work permit six months from the date of lodging a claim for international protection.[112]  Upon being granted the status of refugee or beneficiary of subsidiary protection, the individual “may work independently or be employed, without prejudice to the provisions stipulated in other legislation restricting foreigners to engage in certain jobs and professions”; the ID issued to the individual serves as his/her work permit and contains a written statement to that effect.[113]

The applicant or subsidiary protection beneficiary may have his access to the labor market restricted for a given period, if circumstances in the labor market or sectoral and economic conditions necessitate it.  Such restrictions do not apply, however, to refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries “who have been residing in Turkey for three years; are married to Turkish citizens; or, have children with Turkish citizenship.”[114]

On January 16, 2015, the Regulation on Work Permits of Refugees Under Temporary Protection was published in Turkey’s Official Gazette, providing for such refugees, referred to in article 91 of the LFIP and article 7 of the Regulation on Temporary Protection, to be granted work permits under certain conditions and with certain restrictions.[115]  The Regulation disallows foreigners under temporary protection from working independently or being employed without a legally issued work permit and establishes penalties in the form of administrative fines prescribed under the Law on Work Permits for Foreigners, the law on the basis of which the Regulation was issued, for violation of this rule.[116]  Foreigners under temporary protection can apply to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for a work permit six months from the date on which they registered as being under temporary protection status.  At the workplace for which the work permit is requested, the number of temporary protection workers cannot exceed 10% of the Turkish citizens employed, but if the employer proves that there is no qualified Turkish citizen in the province who can perform the job being done by the foreign worker, the employment quota may not be applied.[117]  Foreigners under temporary protection cannot be paid less than the minimum wage.[118]

The Ministry’s General Director of Labor, Nurcan Önder, in discussing new regulations for work permits in the country, noted that most of the refugees “do not have an identity card.  When we have a look at their professions, we see that 80 percent of these people’s professions are unknown.  We have therefore accepted them [as] ‘unqualified.’  Only 3 percent of Syrian refugees in Turkey are part of the ‘qualified’ labor force . . . .”[119]

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VII.  Path to Naturalization for Entitled Refugees

The Turkish Citizenship Law provides that an alien “can acquire Turkish citizenship by a decision of the competent authority provided that he/she fulfils the conditions laid down in this Law.  However, fulfilment of the stipulated conditions does not grant that person an absolute right in the acquisition of citizenship.”[120]  Acquisition of Turkish citizenship by a decision of the competent authority can be carried out by several means, including naturalization or possession of exceptional status.[121]  The Law includes, in the category of acquisition based on exceptional status, persons recognized as immigrants.[122]  All individuals who are eligible for exceptional acquisition of citizenship can be naturalized without being subject to the five-year residency requirement; their applications will be accepted upon the proposal of the Ministry of Interior and the decision of the Council of Ministers.[123]

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VIII.  Monitoring of Refugees

The Turkish authorities may impose administrative obligations upon applicants for protection—for example, insist that they “reside in the designated reception and accommodation centres, a specific location or a province” and that they “report to the authorities in the form and intervals as requested.”[124]  Applicants must register with the address-based registration system, as was noted above, and report the address of their domicile to the governorate.[125]

The DGMM, for reasons of public security and public order, may also require conditional refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection “to reside at a given province and report to authorities in accordance with determined procedures and periods,”[126]  and these persons, too, must register their address in the system and report the address to the governorate.[127]

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IX. Termination or Cancellation of International Protection Status

International protection status will be terminated if the beneficiaries

a)   voluntarily re-avail themselves of the protection in their country of citizenship;

b)   voluntarily regain the citizenship that they have been deprived of;

c)   acquired a new nationality, and enjoy the protection of the country of their new nationality;

ç)   voluntarily returned to the country from which they have fled or stayed outside of due to fear of persecution.[128]

In cases of voluntary return, the Turkish authorities provide material and financial support to the applicants and international protection beneficiaries, and the repatriation is carried out by the DGMM “in cooperation with international organisations, public institutions and agencies, and civil society organisations.”[129]  Subsidiary protection status is also terminated if the circumstances upon which it had been granted are no longer applicable “or have changed to an extent that the protection is no longer needed.”[130]  Termination of international protection status or subsidiary protection status may be reassessed, and the person concerned may be given the opportunity to present the reasons supporting its continuation.[131] 

International protection status may also be cancelled in cases where the beneficiaries presented false documents or used fraud, deceit, or withholding of facts to obtain the status, or where it is later determined that the beneficiaries should have been excluded on those grounds for exclusion cited above.[132] 

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Prepared by Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst
March 2016

At present there are no Law Library of Congress research staff members versed in Turkish.  This report has been prepared by the author’s reliance on practiced legal research methods and on the basis of relevant legal resources, chiefly in English, currently available in the Law Library and online.

[1] Ahmet İçduygu, Turkey’s Evolving Migration Policies: A Mediterranean Transit Stop at the Doors of the EU 1 (IAI Working Papers 15/31, Sept. 21, 2015),, archived at

[2] Ahmet İçduygu & Damla B. Aksel, Turkish Migration Policies: A Critical Historical Retrospective, 18:3 Perceptions 179 (Autumn 2013),, archived at

[3] İçduygu, supra note 1, at 3.

[4] 2015 UNHCR Country Operations Profile – Turkey, UNHCR, (last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at

[5] Mary Chastain, New Turkey Refugee Laws Keep Syrian Refugees in Limbo, Breitbart (June 19, 2015),, archived at

[6] Press Release, UNHCR, UNHCR: Total Number of Syrian Refugees Exceeds Four Million for First Time (July 9, 2015),, archived at

[7] Turkey to Require Syrian Visas amid Efforts to Implement EU Deal, Europe Online Magazine (Dec. 17, 2015),, archived at  The Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2015-16: Turkey, which had projected the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey in 2015 to reach 2.5 million, estimated that “300,000 will reside in 25 camps and 2.2 million people will live among communities.  In addition, it is estimated that 8.2 million people in refugee hosting areas will be impacted.”  Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2015-16: Turkey at 3, (last visited Jan. 6, 2016), archived at

[8] Turkey Ranks Bottom in Migrant Integration Report with Flow of Refugees, Hürriyet Daily News (June 23, 2015),, archived at (citing Thomas Huddleston et al., Migration Integration Policy Index 2015 at 208–11 (2015), sites/default/files/downloads/files/mipex-2015-book-a5.pdf, archived at 

[9] Huddleston et al., supra note 8, at 210.

[10] Robin Emmott, Turkey Must Cut Migrant Flows to Europe, Top EU Official Says, Reuters (Feb. 6, 2016),, archived at -4DJB.

[11] For a complete list of applicable laws, regulations, and decrees, seeOktay Durukan et al., Country Report: Turkey 11–13 (Asylum Information Database May 18, 2015), files/report-download/aida_turkey_final.pdf, archived at  This report is a comprehensive study of asylum in Turkey; page 12 contains a flow chart of asylum procedures.

[12] N. Aslı Şirin Öner & Deniz Genç, Continuity or Change in Turkey’s Mass Migration Policy: From 1989 Émigrés to Syrian “Guests,” in Turkish Migration Conference 2015 Selected Proceedings 26 (Transnational Press London 2015).

[13] Id. (citing İskan Kanunu [Settlement Law], Law No. 5543, Sept. 19, 2006, as last amended Apr. 23, 2015,, archived at and İskan Kanunu Uygulama Yönetmeliği [Implementation Regulations of the Settlement Law], Dec. 2, 2007, as last amended Jan. 10, 2015,, archived at 

[14] Id.

[15] Öner & Genç, supra note 12, at 27.

[16] Id.; Yabancilar ve Uluslararasi Koruma Kanunu [Law on Foreigners and International Protection], Apr. 4, 2013 (most provisions in force on Apr. 11, 2014), Resmî Gazete [Official Gazette], No. 28615 (Apr. 11, 2013),, archived at; Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP), Law No. 6458, art. 1(1), Apr. 4, 2013 (Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Interior, Directorate General of Migration Management, Apr. 2014), files/files/eng_minikanun_5_son.pdf, archived at (unofficial English translation).

[17] LFIP art. 1(1).

[18] Geçici Koruma Yönetmeliği [Temporary Protection Regulation], Oct. 22, 2014, 20141022-15-1.pdf, archived at, English translation available at http://www.goc., archived at

[19] Yabancıların Çalışma İzinleri Hakkında Kanun [Law on Work Permits for Foreigners], Law No. 4817, art. 12, Feb. 27, 2003, as last amended May 21, 2015, Resmî Gazete, No. 25040 (Mar. 6, 2003), MevzuatMetin/1.5.4817.pdf, archived at; Law on the Work Permits for Foreigners (LWPF), Law No. 4817, Feb. 27, 2003, as amended through Apr. 21, 2015, available at, archived at

[20] LWPF art. 17.

[21] Durukan et al., supra note 11, at 84.

[22] Id.; LWPF art. 11.

[3] Durukan et al., supra note 11, at 84; Yabancıların Çalışma İzinleri Hakkındaki Kanunun Uygulama Yönetmeliği [Implementation Regulation of the Law on Work Permits for Foreigners] art. 13, Aug. 29, 2003, as amended, =yabanc%C4%B1lar%C4%B1n%20%C3%A7al%C4%B1%C5%9Fma, archived at

[24] Repercussions of Euro-Turkey Refugee Deal, The Regional Center for Strategic Studies, Cairo (Dec. 10, 2015),, archived at; see also Press Release, European Commission, EU-Turkey Cooperation: A €3 Billion Refugee Facility for Turkey (Nov. 24, 2015),, archived at; EU-Turkey Joint Action Plant, European Commission, rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5860_en.htm (last updated Oct. 22, 2015), archived at  

[25] Annex to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions Under the European Agenda on Migration: EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan – Implementation Report COM (2016) 85 final (Feb. 10, 2016), state_of_play_20160210_annex_01_en.pdf, archived at

[26] Id. at 10.

[27] Id.  The sectors identified as priority sectors for financial assistance to the refugees include “humanitarian aid, education, labour market integration, health care and social inclusion, municipal infrastructure and the management of refugee flows.” See also Press Release, European Commission, Managing the Refugee Crisis: Commission Reports on Implementation of EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan (Feb. 10, 2016),, archived at

[28] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, July 28, 1951, 189 U.N.T.S. 137, 150, Publication/UNTS/Volume%20189/v189.pdf, archived at; Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Jan. 31, 1967, 606 U.N.T.S. 267, 268, %20606/v606.pdf, archived at  Turkey signed the Convention on August 24, 1951, and ratified it on March 30, 1962, Status As At: 22-02-2016,Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, UN Treaty Collection (UNTC),, archived at, and acceded to the Protocol on July 31, 1968.  Status as at 22-02-2016, Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, UNTC, pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=V-5&chapter=5&lang=en, archived at

[29] See UNTC status pages, supra note 28, under “Declarations and Reservations.”

[30] Cavidan Soykan, The New Draft Law on Foreigners and International Protection in Turkey,2:2Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration 38, 38–39 (Nov. 2012), Cavidan-FINAL.pdf, archived at  Soykan adds that “only three other states . . . opted for this geographical limitation apart from Turkey: Congo, Madagascar and Monaco.”  Id. at 38 n.3.

[31] İçduygu, supra note 1, at 7.  According to the UNHCR, “refugee status determination” (RSD) is “the legal or administrative process by which governments or UNHCR determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law.” Refugee Status Determination, UNHCR, (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at BH7E-A3ML.

[32] Refugees & Asylum in Turkey, Refugee Solidarity Network, (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at

[33] Id

[34] Id.

[35] Id. art. 61(1).

[36] Id. art. 62(1).

[37] Id. art. 63(1).

[38] Rebecca Kilberg, Turkey’s Evolving Migration Identity, Migration Policy Institute (July 24, 2014),, archived at

[39] Id.

[40] LFIP art. 91.

[41] UNHCR, supra note 4.

[42] Provincial Directorates of Migration Management Has [sic] Become Operational, Adana BTU, http://iso.adana (last visited Feb. 22, 2016), archived at; Elif Nur Çakır & Nuri Bodur, New Resident Permit Application Process in Turkey, 28(3) Global Employer: Global Immigr. & Mobility Q. Update (Baker & McKenzie, Sept. 2015), b9fd7f1759f4025bb7eb428b3828da0e9b, archived at

[43] Öner & Genç, supra note 12, at 28.

[44] İçduygu, supra note 1, at 7.

[45] Öner & Genç, supra note 12, at 35.

[46]Refugee Solidarity Network, supra note 32.

[47] Temporary Protection Regulation art. 1(1).

[48] LFIP art. 2(1).

[49] Id. art. 2(2).

[50] Id. arts. 5(1) & 6(1).

[51] Id. art. 6(2) & (3).

[52] Id. art. 6(4).

[53] Id. art. 7(1)(a).

[54] Id. art. 6(5).

[55] Id. art. 8(1).

[56] Id. art. 65(1) & 2.

[57] Id. art. 65(3).  The consent of adult family members is required in cases where an application is made on their behalf.

[58] Id. art. 66(1)(a).  Juvenile Protection Law, Law No. 5395, July 3, 2005, available at law/juvenile-protection-law-5395 (unofficial English translation), archived at; Çocuk Koruma Kanunu [Child Protection Law], July 3, 2005 (most provisions in force on July 15, 2005), http://www., archived at

[59] LFIP art. 67(1).

[60] Id. art. 68(1).

[61] Id. art. 68(2).  Under LFIP, administrative detention may be applied to determine the person’s identity or nationality if “there is serious doubt as to the accuracy of the information provided”; to bar entry if the terms of entry at the border gates have been breached; if the elements of the grounds for the application cannot be identified unless the person is subject to the detention; or if the person poses a serious threat to public order or security.  Id. art. 68(2)(a)–(ç).

[62] Moreover, “3RP partners provided extensive financial and technical support to strengthen the registration capacity of the Government.”  Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-2017 in Response to the Syria Crisis: Turkey, at 6,, archived at  “The 2016–2017 3RP brings together more than 200 partners in a coordinated region-wide response to the Syria crisis.”  3RP: A Strategic Shift, Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-17, (last visited Jan. 29, 2016), archived at

[63] Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-2017 in Response to the Syria Crisis: Turkey, supra note 62, at 6.

[64] LFIP art. 69(1).

[5] Id. art. 69(2).

[66] Id. art. 69(3).

[67] Id. art. 69(4).

[68] Id.

[69] Id. art. 69(5).

[70] Id. art. 69(6).

[71] Id. art. 70(1).

[72] Id. art. 69(7).

[73] Id. art. 65(1)(a–c).

[74] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, supra note 28, art. 1F.

[75] LFIP art. 72(1).

[76] Id. art. 72(2) & (3).

[77] Id. art. 75(1).

[78] Id. art. 75(2).

[79] Id. art. 75(6).

[80] Id. art. 76(1).

[81] Id. art. 76(4).

[82] Id. art. 78(1).

[83] Id. arts. 78(2) & 64(6).

[84] Id. art. 78(3).

[85] Id. art. 78(4).

[86] Id. art. 78(5).

[87] Id. art. 79(1).

[88] Id. art. 79(2).

[89] Id. art. 79(3).

[90] Id. art. 79(4).

[91] Id. art. 80(1).

[92] Id. art. 81(1) & (2).

[93] Id. art. 89(2).

[94] Tülin Canbay, Public Services for Asylum Seekers in Turkey Within the Perspective of New Migratory Movements, in Turkish Migration Conference 2015 Selected Proceedings, supra note 12, at 2–3.

[95] Id. at 3. 

[96] LFIP art. 89(5).  Allowances are given with Ministry of Finance approval. Exceptions are applicants whose applications are deemed inadmissible or fall under the accelerated procedure (under articles 72 and 79).

[97] Social Insurance and Universal Health Insurance Law, Law No. 5510, May 31, 2006, as amended Apr. 17, 2008, available at, archived at, Turkish text as last amended effective Apr. 1, 2015 available at http://www.mevzuat., archived at

[98] LFIP art. 89(3)(a).  The insurance is terminated for and reimbursement expected from persons found at a later date to have already had medical insurance coverage or the financial means for it or to have applied for asylum solely on the basis of obtaining it.  Id. art. 89(3)(b).

[99] Id. art. 66(1)(b).

[100] Id. art. 66(1)(c).

[101] Id. art. 66(1)(ç).

[102] Id. art. 67(2).

[103] Id. art. 70(2).

[104] Id. art. 83(1).

[105] Id. art. 83(2).

[106] Id. art. 83(3).

[107] Id. art. 84(1); Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees art. 28.  Article 28(1) of the Convention states as follows:
The Contracting States shall issue to refugees lawfully staying in their territory travel documents for the purpose of travel outside their territory, unless compelling reasons of national security or public order otherwise require, and the provisions of the Schedule to this Convention shall apply with respect to such documents.  The Contracting States may issue such a travel document to any other refugee in their territory; they shall in particular give sympathetic consideration to the issue of such a travel document to refugees in their territory who are unable to obtain a travel document from the country of their lawful residence. 

[108] LFIP art. 84(2); Passport Law, Law No. 5682, July 15, 1950,, archived at, Turkish text as last amended Sept. 11, 2014 available at http://www., archived at  A number of provisions were repealed in 2013.  A clause of article 18 was amended on August 1, 2010.

[109] LFIP art. 89(1).

[110] Öner & Genç, supra note 12, at 34; General Directorate of Basic Education, Ministry of National Education, Genelge 2014/21 [Circular 2014/21], Sept. 23, 2014, available on the Antalya Provincial Directorate of National Education website, at (in Turkish), archived at

[111] Öner & Genç, supra note 12, at 34.  The authors point out, however, that “there are several problems in schooling of the Syrian children in Turkey.  The main one is the language barrier.”  Id. at 34.

[112] LFIP art. 89(4)(a).

[113] Id. art. 89(4)(b).

[114] Id. art. 89(4)(c).

[115] Turkey Grants Work Permit for Syrian Refugees, Turkish Labor Law (Jan. 19, 2016), http://turkishlaborlaw. com/news/legal-news/362-turkey-grants-work-permit-for-syrian-refugees, archived at; Geçici Koruma Sağlanan Yabancıların Çalışma İzinlerine dair Yönetmelik [Regulation on Work Permits of Refugees Under Temporary Protection] (Foreign Work Permit Regulation), Resmî Gazete, No. 29594 (Jan. 15, 2016) (Council of Ministers Decision No. 2016/8375 of Jan. 11, 2016), Metin/3.5.20168375.pdf, archived at

[116] Turkish Labor Law, supra note 115; Law on Work Permits for Foreigners art. 21.

[117] Turkish Labor Law, supra note 115; Foreign Work Permit Regulation art. 8.

[118] Turkish Labor Law, supra note 115; Foreign Work Permit Regulation art. 10.

[119] Bülent Sarıoğlu, Only 3 Pct of Syrian Refugees in Turkey “Qualified” Labor: Ministry, Hürriyet Daily News (Feb. 3, 2016), aspx?pageID=238&nID=94718&NewsCatID=347, archived at

[120] Türk Vatandaşliği Kanunu [Turkish Citizenship Law], No. 5901, May 29, 2009, as last amended May 18, 2012, art. 10, Resmî Gazete, No. 27256 (June 12, 2009), Kanun/pdf/turk_vatandasligi_kanunu.pdf, archived at, English translation available at pdf , archived at -BM3B.  It seems that only article 28, on rights accorded to persons who lost Turkish citizenship through renunciation of it, was affected by the 2012 amendment, although article 28 was greatly expanded, from one clause to ten.

[121] Id. art. 12(1)(a).

[122] Id. art. 12(1)(b)–(c).

[123] Id. art. 12; Zeynep Kadirbeyoglu, EUDO Citizenship Observatory: Country Report: Turkey 13 (Nov. 2012),, archived at

[124] LFIP art. 71(1).

[125] Id. art. 71(2).

[126] Id. art. 82(1).

[127] Id. art. 82(2).

[128] Id. art. 85(1).

[129] Id. art. 87.

[130] Id. art. 85(3); see also art. 85(2).

[131] Id. art. 85(4).

[132] Id. art. 86(1).