Responding to the Global Detention Project’s COVID-19 survey, a non-governmental actor in Turkey reported that the country has not delayed or stopped issuing administrative detention orders as a consequence of the global pandemic. The source, who asked to remain anonymous but whose identity was verified by the GDP, said that they had observed detainees confined in overcrowded centres, including the ones in Istanbul, being transferred to other detention centres to improve social distancing.
The source also reported that they were unaware of any immigration detainees being released for COVID-related reasons. They had applied to the court for all their clients in administrative detention to be released on the basis of COVID-19 infection risks. However, not a single person has yet been released for this reason. Moreover, the source stated that apart from the authorities’ attempt to reduce overcrowding by transferring detainees to other detention centres, they had not observed any other measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or to ensure appropriate care of migrants or asylum seekers. People requiring treatment at hospitals were sent back to detention after they recovered. People released from administrative detention for reasons not related to the pandemic were able to immediately return to their own accommodation. There is no obligatory quarantine period upon release, and migrants and asylum seekers are not tested for the virus. Also, the source reported that they had not seen authorities test detainees except those who are evidently ill.
Regarding alternatives to detention, the source said that the most common implementation is to oblige the person to regularly report to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management or to the satellite cities by providing a signature. The frequency of the reporting duties will vary depending on the case. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, these reporting duties were suspended or postponed so ATDs have not factored into any COVID response.
According to the source, removals were halted between 18 March and 15 June 2020. However, removal decisions continued to be issued during this time. In consequence, if a removal decision was made against a migrant, the migrant in question would either be taken to administrative detention or released after the order was issued. The source stated that they did not have any clients who were removed from the country, but that some returned voluntarily after deportation decisions were made against them.
Turkey did not announce any new immigration or asylum policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The source told the GDP that they had been informed that migrants waiting at the Edirne-Greece border, were taken into quarantine as a result of the statement made by president Erdogan at the end of February announcing that Turkey would no longer stop migrants and refugees from reaching Europe (see 6 April Turkey update on this platform).
Following adoption of legislation in April (see 14 April Turkey update on this platform), enabling the release of thousands of prisoners to prevent the spread of the virus in overcrowded prisons, the prison administration reported on 18 June that they had temporarily released 64,661 prisoners from its facilities.
- Unnamed source in Turkey, Global Detention Project COVID-19 Survey, 8 December 2020.
- Prison Insider, “La Fièvre des Prisons: Turquie,” accessed on 8 December 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/moyen-orient-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons
- BIA News Desk, “Coronavirus in Prisons: Six Prisoners Died, 72 Active Cases Found,” 18 June 2020, https://bianet.org/english/law/225902-coronavirus-in-prisons-six-prisoners-died-72-active-cases-found
- Migrants Waiting Near Buffer Zone at the Turkey-Greece Border in the Edirne District in February 2020, (AFP, “UN: 13,000 Migrants Gathered Along Turkish-Greek Border,” 29 February 2020, https://www.voanews.com/europe/un-13000-migrants-gathered-along-turkish-greek-border)