28 June 2021
A fire broke out at Turkey’s Izmir Harmandali Removal Centre on 23 June 2021 because of an electrical problem at the facility, according to information provided to the Global Detention Project by a non-governmental actor in Turkey. The fire started on the fifth floor of the centre where refugees are held. Firefighters evacuated the floor, but after the fire was brought under control, a 21-year-old Syrian asylum seeker was found dead. The Turkish Migration Department concluded that because the asylum seeker had not left his room during the fire, he must have committed suicide.
According to a report from the Turkish news service SOL, a staff member working at the removal centre told the news agency that refugees and asylum seekers held in the centre are constantly insulted, ridiculed, and humiliated by guards. The staff member said: “I saw that almost all of the male and female security guards are racist and anti-refugee. They don’t receive any training. Especially all of the shift supervisors - except one - are rude.” The staff member added: “Even raising your voice a little bit and demanding a phone card makes the security guards angry.” According to him, as a punishment, people are taken to the so-called foreign terrorist fighter floor, left alone for hours in a room, handcuffed behind their backs. The staff member also said that the centre’s conditions create such feelings of hopelessness that people end up hurting themselves because of it: “I’ve seen young refugees break their arm” just to go to hospital. In addition, he reported that in one case, a woman gave birth and the child had to be kept in hospital under observation. In the meantime, they brought the woman back to the removal centre and left her alone in a room without any support despite having a caesarean delivery and needing care. Another employee said that during the summer, the centre is constantly over capacity and food is sometimes not provided to detainees.
The problems at the Izmir Harmandali Removal Centre are indicative of broader problems across Turkey’s detention system that have been aggravated by the COVID-19. According to a report by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, the deteriorating situations at Izmir and other removal centres have been compounded by the fact that lawyers, interpreters, and civil society advocates have been reluctant to enter removal centres out of fear of COVID-19 contamination, and meetings with families were stopped. The removal centre in Ankara did not accept any lawyers visiting after 5PM and lawyers had difficulties examining the files of their potential clients. At the Kirkkale removal centre, ECRE’s report found that requests for legal aid were not being delivered to the bar association and requests for assistance were mainly being received through the family members of detainees or the UNHCR.
According to a study on COVID-19 barriers and response strategies for refugees and undocumented migrants in Turkey, published in the Journal of Migration and Health in December 2020, Turkey hosts the largest number of “forced migrants” in the world, with approximately 3.6 million Syrians granted temporary protection and around 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities. The study mentions that while the Turkish Ministry of Health has taken various steps to provide health care to for all residents since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Turkey, there have been important challenges in health care provision for refugees, migrants under temporary protection, and other undocumented migrants, including language barriers preventing access to reliable information and access to health services for chronic conditions. Additionally, according to the research, the registration processes of undocumented patients in health centres has faced significant delays. There is a “stateless” category in the Ministry of Health registration system that may be used to register undocumented migrants. Yet, this has not been implemented in every health centre as it is largely dependent on the care providers’ decision to accept undocumented patients or not. There have also been issues regarding the distribution of free masks through pharmacies, as people would receive a text message to collect their masks according to their identification number. However, many migrants do not have identification numbers, therefore limiting their access to the masks. Another issue identified by the study is that when undocumented migrants seek health care, they risk being deported or being reported to the police. This has caused widespread fear among many refugees and undocumented migrants, fearing deportation or a loss of residency if they tested positive for COVID-19.
The government also implemented restrictive measures for entry and exit from refugee camps, including temperature checks prior to entry. Those individuals suspected of having COVID-19 are usually transferred to hospital, tested for COVID-19 and depending upon their condition, sent back to the camps for isolation. As of 2 July 2021, Turkey had recorded around 5.4 million COVID-19 cases and 49,774 related deaths.
- SOL, “GCM Employees Talked About the Situation of Refugees: Ill-Treatment, Humiliation, Inhumane Conditions,” 25 June 2021, https://haber.sol.org.tr/haber/ggm-calisanlari-siginmacilarin-durumunu-anlatti-kotu-muamele-asagilama-insanlik-disi-kosullar
- SonDakika.com, “1 Asylum Seeker Lost His Life in the Fire at the Harmandali Removal Centre,” 23 June 2021, https://www.sondakika.com/haber/haber-son-dakika-harmandali-geri-gonderme-merkezi-nde-cikan-14220937/
- S. B. Özvaris, “COVID-19 Barriers and Response Strategies for Refugees and Undocumented Migrants in Turkey,” Journal of Migration and Health, Volume 1-2, 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S266662352030012X
- European Council on Refugees and Exiles, “Access to Detention Facilities,” Asylum Information Database, 31 May 2021, https://asylumineurope.org/reports/country/turkey/detention-asylum-seekers/detention-conditions/access-detention-facilities/
- Firefighters On a Crane on the Top Floor of Harmandali Removal Centre, (SonDakika.com, “1 Asylum Seeker Lost His Life in the Fire at the Harmandali Removal Centre,” 23 June 2021, https://www.sondakika.com/haber/haber-son-dakika-harmandali-geri-gonderme-merkezi-nde-cikan-14220937/)
11 December 2020
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)
14 April 2020
The Turkish Parliament passed a law to allow tens of thousands of prisoners to be released to prevent the spread in overcrowded prisons. Those jailed on “terrorism” charges following the 2016 coup attempt will not be released, however. According to the law, persons can be temporarily released under judicial control until the end of May, and the Justice Ministry will be able to extend this twice, by a maximum of two months each time. Some would also be released permanently. (According to the CoE, Turkey has the second-largest prison population in Europe and the continent’s most over-crowded prison population as of January 2019.)
According to reports in the Greek press, Turkey has allegedly been pushing Covid-infected migrants across the border into Greece. According to Ekathimerini.com (11 April), “Sources that cannot be named but are considered reliable believe that Turkey has a plan to push migrants infected with the coronavirus to cross into Greece and other parts of Europe in the midst of the virus pandemic. According to the sources, these migrants, many of whom were also at the Pazarkule, or Kastanies, border crossing, have been transported from migrant camps in the hinterland.”
- Al Jazeera, "Turkey to Free Thousands of Prisoners due to Coronavirus Pandemic," 14 April 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/turkey-free-thousands-prisoners-due-coronavirus-pandemic-200414005036259.html
- V. Nedos, "Turkey Pushing Covid-infected Migrants to Cross into Greece, Officials Believe," Ekathimerini.com, 11 April 2020, https://www.ekathimerini.com/251623/article/ekathimerini/news/turkey-pushing-covid-infected-migrants-to-cross-into-greece-officials-believe
06 April 2020
To-date, the GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating that authorities have taken measures within removal centres. Instead, domestic attention has been focused on the country’s prisons. On 17 March, nine human rights organisations and trade unions called on the state and prison authorities to take various steps to ensure the safety of inmates. The government is also reportedly working on a bill that aims to release 100,000 prisoners due to Covid-19. Sources indicate that repeat offenders, or those that have committed terrorist, drug, or sexual abuse crimes will not be released. On 16 March 2020, Turkish tribunals announced that hearings are postponed until further notice due to the spread of Covid-19. Also, visits to the country’s prison population have been suspended.
Despite Turkey’s announcement in February that it would no longer stop migrants and refugees from reaching Europe, the government altered its approach in response to the virus, announcing that by 27 March 2020, refugees on the Turkey-Greece border would be temporarily settled in nine cities as a precaution against further spread of Covid-19.
- Bianet, “State and Prison Administrations Responsible for Protecting Prisoners from Covid-19,” 17 March 2020, https://tinyurl.com/slh44e6
- R. Soylu, “Coronavirus: Turkey to Pass Law to Release 10000 Prisoners,” Middle East Eye, 20 March 2020, www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-turkey-law-release-inmates-prisons
- A. Yackley, “Government Scrambles to Contain Coronavirus as Turkish Cases Triple,” Al-Monitor, 16 March 2020, www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/03/turkey-coronavirus-spread-case-triple.html
- Bianet, News List, 23 March 2020, https://tinyurl.com/st6qhkw
- P. Dost, “Coronavirus is Exacerbating the Precarious Situation of Syrian Refugees and IDPs”, Atlantic Council, 27 March 2020, https://tinyurl.com/s6x37qo
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Turkey, www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/turkey
Last updated: October 2021
SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS
B. Attitudes and Perceptions
LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
Regulations, Standards, Guidelines
GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION
LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION
MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS
Detention Facility Management
Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
Reception centre (Administrative)
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
Reception centre (Administrative)
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
Reception centre (Administrative)
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
Reception centre (Administrative)
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS
Types of Authorised Detention Monitoring Institutions
Bilateral/Multilateral Readmission Agreements
International Treaties Ratified
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Individual Complaints Procedures
Relevant Recommendations Issued by Treaty Bodies
NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS
Relevant Recommendations by UN Special Procedures
§ 94. Avoid detaining individuals for the sole purpose of their irregular migration status, and systematically explore non-custodial alternatives to detention. 95. Detention should be limited to those cases where there is a risk of absconding or when the person poses a threat to his/her own or public security, and its duration should be limited to the minimum time necessary in order to carry out removal proceedings. 96. Establish clear procedures to avoid the detention of migrants whose removal is unlikely, inter alia due to statelessness, lack of diplomatic presence in Turkey, or unwillingness of the countries of origin to receive their own nationals. 97. Refrain from detaining children and families with children, in conformity with the principle of the best interests of the child and family unity. 98. Facilitate, where possible, the voluntary return of migrants who are willing to return to their countries, as opposed to deportation proceedings, in accordance with international human rights law. 99. Ensure adequate access to all places where migrants are detained, including the transit zone at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, to lawyers, CSOs, UNHCR and other international organizations. 100. Establish a system of independent monitoring of all detention facilities, including by the National Preventive Mechanism, the National Human Rights Institution, civil society organizations and international organizations. 101. Develop regulations in line with international human rights standards concerning procedural safeguards and conditions of detention, and ensure that all migrants deprived of their liberty are able to promptly contact their family, consular services and a lawyer, which should be free of charge if necessary, to seek asylum if requested, and to promptly and effectively challenge their detention. 102. Ensure that all detained migrants have access to proper medical care, adequate food and hygienic conditions, and to an interpreter. 103. Improve the human rights training of police officers and other officials working in the area of migration, including the staff in detention facilities.2012
REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS
Regional Legal Instruments
Regional Judicial Decisions on Individual Complaints
GHORBANOV AND OTHERS v. TURKEY (Application no. 28127/09), European Court of Human Rights, 3 December 2013
ATHARY v. TURKEY. 50372/09. ECtHR. 11 December 2012
DBOUBA v. TURKEY (Application no. 15916/09), ECtHR, 13 July 2010
D.B. v. TURKEY (Application no. 33526/08), European Court of Human Rights, 13 July 2010
Alipour and Hosseinzadjan v. Turkey (Appls.nos.6909/08, 12792/08, 28960/08), European Court of Human Rights, 13 July 2010
Ahmadpour v. Turkey (Appl.no.12717/08), European Court of Human Rights, 15 June 2010
Tehrani and Others v. Turkey (nos. 32940/08, 41626/08 and 43616/08), European Court of Human Rights, 13 April 2010
Ranjbar and Others v. Turkey (no. 37040/07), European Court of Human Rights, 13 April 2010
Recommendations of Regional Human Rights Mechanisms
Detention of foreign nationals under aliens legislation - for as long as the detention facility for foreign nationals at the Ankara Police Headquarters remains in service, detained persons to be offered access to the open air for at least one hour every day (paragraph 40).
Detention centres for foreigners - police officers at the detention centres in Ağrı, Edirne-Tunça and Kirklareli to be reminded that all forms of ill-treatment of immigration detainees are not acceptable and will be punished accordingly (paragraph 41); - the Turkish authorities to take the necessary steps to prevent any “informal deportations” from occurring in the future (paragraph 43); - the Turkish authorities to prevent any repetition of the severe overcrowding which reportedly occurred at Van Detention Centre in August and September 2009 (paragraph 44); - steps to be taken to significantly reduce the official capacity of Istanbul-Kumkapı Detention Centre and to ensure that future occupancy levels are always kept within the limits of the new capacity (paragraph 45); - urgent steps to be taken to ensure that the detention centres at Ağrı, Kırklareli (unit for male adults), Konya and Van are kept in an acceptable state of repair and hygiene (paragraph 48); - the Turkish authorities to take steps at all the detention centres visited to ensure that foreign nationals are offered a greater number and broader range of activities (paragraph 49); - 66 - - the provision of food to immigration detainees to be reviewed in all the detention centres for foreigners, to ensure that it is adequate in terms of both quantity and quality (paragraph 51); - the necessary steps to be taken in all the detention centres for foreigners to: ensure that all newly-arrived detainees are promptly examined by a doctor or by a fully-qualified nurse reporting to a doctor; arrange for the daily presence of a person with a recognised nursing qualification, the length of time of that presence depending on the number of immigration detainees; a nurse should be present on a full-time basis at Istanbul-Kumkapı. Such nursing staff could in particular perform the initial medical screening of new arrivals, receive requests from foreign nationals to see a doctor, ensure the provision and distribution of prescribed medicines, keep the medical documentation (thus ensuring confidentiality of medical data) and supervise the general conditions of hygiene (paragraph 52); - steps to be taken in all detention centres for foreigners to ensure that police officers working in direct contact with immigration detainees receive appropriate initial and continuous training (including in interpersonal communication skills) (paragraph 59).
Legal situation of immigration detainees - the Turkish authorities to take steps to ensure that all immigration detainees are able to have unrestricted and confidential access to a lawyer throughout their detention (paragraph 63)
Holding facilities for foreign nationals in the transit zone of Istanbul International Airport - the Turkish authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that foreign nationals held in the transit zone are allowed to contact and meet representatives of UNHCR (paragraph 67).