Introduction To The Asylum Context In Turkey

Turkey currently hosts both a population of over 3,5 million refugees from neighbouring Syria and several hundred thousand asylum seekers and beneficiaries of protection of other nationalities, most principally originating from IraqAfghanistan, and Iran, among others. These two populations of protection seekers are subject to two different sets of asylum rules and procedures. As such, the Turkish asylum system has a dual structure.

Turkey maintains a geographical limitation to the 1951 Refugee Convention and only applies it to refugees originating from European countries. That said, in April 2013 Turkey adopted a comprehensive, EU-inspired Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP), which establishes a dedicated legal framework for asylum in Turkey and affirms Turkey’s obligations towards all persons in need of international protection, regardless of country of origin. According to the UNHCR, the European acquis in the field of asylum and migration is clearly visible in Turkish asylum legislation thanks to this reform.[1] The law also created the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) as the agency responsible for migration and asylum, which conducts the status determination procedure. Toward the end of 2018 DGMM took over all tasks relating to international protection, while UNHCR and its implementing partner, the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), phased out of registration of international protection applicants. UNHCR maintains contact with the authorities and has a Host Country Agreement with Turkey, which was signed in 2016 and entered into force on 1 July 2018.[2]

The LFIP provides three types of international protection status in accordance with Turkey’s “geographical limitation” policy on the 1951 Refugee Convention.

  1. Persons who fall within the refugee definition of the 1951 Convention and come from a “European country of origin”[3]qualify for refugee status under LFIP, in full acknowledgment of Turkey’s obligations under the 1951 Convention.
  2. Persons who fall within the refugee definition of the 1951 Convention but come from a so-called ‘non-European country of origin’, are instead offered conditional refugee statusunder LFIP. Conditional refugee status is a Turkish legal concept introduced by the LFIP for the purpose of differentiating in treatment between 1951 Convention-type refugees originating from ‘non-European’ states and those originating from ‘European’ states.
  3. Persons who do not fulfil the eligibility criteria for either refugee status or conditional refugee status but would however be subjected to death penalty or torture in country of origin if returned, or would be at “individualised risk of indiscriminate violence” due to situations or war or internal armed conflict, qualify for subsidiary protection status under LFIP. The Turkish legal status of subsidiary protection mirrors the subsidiary protection definition provided by the EU Qualification Directive.

For refugees from Syria, Turkey implements a temporary protection regime, which grants beneficiaries a right of legal stay as well as some level of access to basic rights and services. The temporary protection status is acquired on a prima facie, group basis, to Syrian nationals and stateless Palestinians originating from Syria. DGMM is the responsible authority for the registration and status decisions within the scope of the temporary protection regime, which is based on Article 91 LFIP and the Temporary Protection Regulation (TPR) of 22 October 2014.

In line with the legislative framework this report is divided into two sections, the first on international protection and the second on temporary protection.

[1]        Long Road to Return II Durable Solutions for the Syrian Refugees in Turkey, December 2019, available at: , p. 13. The information was obtained through an interview with UNHCR that took place in September 2019. (footnote 102).

[2]        UNHCR, Turkey: Operational Update 2018 Highlights, available at:

[3]        For the purpose of “geographical limitation” in regards to the interpretation of the 1951 Convention, Government of Turkey considers Council of Europe member states as ‘European countries of origin’.