Turkey – Country Report: Legal and Policy Framework of Migration Governance
Elif Çetin, Neva Övünç Öztürk, N. Ela Gökalp, Zeynep Şahin Mencütek | Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul
This country report focuses on developments that took place during the period of 2011-2017 in the field of migration in Turkey. Traditionally a country of emigration, starting from the early 1990s, it has also become an important country of immigration, asylum and transit. Most recently, the increasing pressure of the refugee challenge, particularly given the high number of arrivals from Syria, has put the country once again under international spotlights.
This report provides relevant migration statistics that are available as open source data. It briefly reviews the socio-economic, political and cultural characteristic of the country as well as its brief migration history. The report also delves into a detailed analysis of the constitutional, legal and institutional framework of Turkey’s national migration management system, which has gone through significant transition in the last few years. The report points out that due to Turkey’s geographical limitation to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), and its associated 1967 Protocol; Turkey does not grant refugee status to people fleeing from conflicts and persecution in non-European countries. But it does provide ‘conditional refugee status’ along with ‘refugee’ and ‘subsidiary’ protection. The introduction of new sets of legislation, including the Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) in 2013, and Temporary Protection Regulation (TPR) in 2014, together with the development of new state agency to deal with migration affairs, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), paved the way for a more centrally organised national migration governance system. Moreover, the legal framework created with the LFIP and the TPR also established clearly defined migration categories such as regular migrant, irregular migrant, forced migrant and it set the criteria for granting temporary protection status.
The report reveals a key duality regarding European and non-European asylum seekers to be an important characteristic of Turkey’s asylum system. The first group can obtain ‘refugee’ status’; while the second group can only obtain ‘conditional refugee status’. However, regardless of their nationality, due to the Syrian mass migration, Syrian refugees718 are given another international protection status, which is called ‘temporary protection’. Thus, together the LFIP and the TPR created a legal basis for asylum seekers from Syria and those from other countries to be the subject of two different asylum regimes in Turkey, with distinct sets of procedural rules, reception provisions and detention considerations (Refugee Rights Turkey, 2015, p.11).
The report concludes by highlighting that part of Turkey’s recent migration policy efforts are tied to encouragement coming from the EU for Turkey to improve conditions regarding access to the asylum process and status determination as well as enhancement of its facilities for asylum-seekers’ protection. Although these developments bring Turkey closer to satisfying the EU demands on migration and asylum policy, Turkey is still expected to abolish the geographical limitation of the 1951 Convention to create a full-fledged asylum system and to solve remaining implementation problems. Ensuring equal and fair access to asylum procedures and facilitating the full access of asylum-seekers to legal aid remain priorities still to be achieved.
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