Alternatives to Detention in Turkey

Formal status and documentation of stateless persons

In Turkey, stateless persons who have been identified are to be issued a Stateless Person Identification Document. This grants the right to legal residence and access to health, education and legal services.

Prohibiting the detention of vulnerable individuals

For the first time, Turkey has introduced a comprehensive framework for the governance of migration. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) was ratified by the Turkish Parliament on 4 April 2014.

It introduces important protections and procedural safeguards in administrative decision-making for persons seeking international protection. It also excludes certain vulnerable individuals from detention and introduces alternatives into law for the first time.

Under the LFIP, detention is prohibited for unaccompanied minors seeking international protection, victims of human trafficking, international protection status holders, international protection applicants (except in set circumstances) and stateless individuals.

The LFIP also exempts a number of vulnerable individuals from deportation orders and, therefore, detention. This includes individuals who are at risk of torture/ill-treatment if expelled; are unable to travel due to poor health, age or pregnancy; require medical treatment that cannot be obtained in the country of origin or return; or are victims of serious psychological, physical or sexual violence, until treatment is completed.

For such vulnerable individuals, humanitarian residence permits are issued (with specific permits for victims of human trafficking). These permits can also be issued to individuals for whom a deportation order has been issued but who cannot be deported (e.g. because their country of origin refuses to accept their return).

Permit holders may be required to reside at designated reception and accommodation centres and to report to authorities at specified periods. The permit includes a foreigner identification number, which is used to access health care, education and legal services.

Asylum seekers may live with freedom of movement if they reside in their allocated ‘satellite city.’

Law requiring that detention is used as a matter of last resort

The Law on Foreigners and International Protection 2014 establishes detention of asylum seekers as an “exceptional measure”, the need for which must be “evaluated on an individual basis” – it provides four criteria according to which asylum seekers “can be detained”.

Presumption against detention for certain nationalities

Presumption against detention for Syrians: all Syrians are given temporary protection and are therefore not detained.

Law providing liberty for persons ordered to leave the country

Section 56 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection states that 15-30 days shall be granted for foreigners to leave Turkey.

However, this period shall notbe granted to foreigners who may abscond or disappear, who violate rules for lawful entry and exit, who use fraudulent documents, who attempt to obtain or who have been identified as having obtained a residence permit with fraudulent documents, and who constitute a threat to public order and public security or public health.

A “Departure Permission Document” shall be issued to persons who have been granted a period to leave Turkey. This document shall be issued free of charge.

Right to work, basic services, healthcare and education

Asylum seekers with an identification number (i.e. registered at a satellite city) now have the right to access social services in that city, including: Health care; Compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 (but language barriers are a problem); The rights to work after 6 months (but they need an employer to support their application and they are often reluctant to do so because of stringent assessments so difficult in practice).

Monitoring: Directed Residence

There are 50+ satellite cities (UNHCR says there are 62 Satellite cities, or “designated residences”) out of 80+ in Turkey (intentionally none of the major metropolitan areas).

Decision of where to be located is determined by government (police). Not on an individual basis, however, Government provides UNHCR with a list of what is available and UNHCR allocates to city on registration.

Some people try to register directly in satellite city of their choice but it is more a question of luck.

UNHCR or other NGOs may provide travel assistance.  People must make their own way there and risk enroute apprehension.  Once arriving have 7-days to register with local police.  Police give Residence Permit at a cost of $TL200.

Some people cannot afford to register and cannot receive the benefits of ATD., an cannot then, leave satellite city without permission.

Monitoring : Reporting Requirements

Reporting requirements of asylum seekers and refugees are up to police in the satellite cities and up to police’s discretion with regard to individuals. According to NGOs, the government is now operating a system of presumed withdrawl of IP application if a person misses reporting three times.

There are alternatives cover

Over the past five years, the IDC has undertaken a program of research to identify and describe a number of positive alternatives to immigration detention (‘alternatives’) that respect fundamental rights, are less expensive and are equally or more effective than traditional border controls.

This research, entitled There are alternatives, provides readers with the guidance needed to successfully avoid unnecessary detention and to ensure community options are as effective as possible.

This text was published in September 2015.