Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

1.4.2009 | Von:
Ahmet İçduygu, Deniz Sert

Refuge and Asylum

Turkey has increasingly become a source of asylum-seekers looking for refuge in other parts of the world. On the other hand, Turkey has always been a country of destination for asylum-seekers looking for a safe haven.

Since the turbulence of the early 1980s, including a military coup in 1980 and the rise of the Kurdish conflict, Turkey has increasingly become a source of asylum-seekers looking for refuge in other parts of the world.

According to statistics made available by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between 1981 and 2005 over 664 000 Turkish citizens applied for asylum, mostly in various European countries. Refugee recognition rates have differed from country to country, but generally have been low, as many have tried to use asylum channels as a means of emigrating for other purposes. Since the conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK grew less intense in the second half of the 1990s, and with the political reforms that were initiated at the same time, asylum applications by Turkish citizens have decreased.

On the other hand, Turkey has always been a country of destination for asylum-seekers looking for a safe haven. As stated earlier, the Law on Settlement, which was adopted in 1934 (Law No. 2510, dated June 14, 1934) is the main legislation that sets the terms on who can immigrate, settle, and acquire refugee status in the country. As part of the new Republic's nation-building project, the law demonstratively gave, and still gives, preference to immigrants and refugees of Turkish descent and culture. Asylum-seekers with such backgrounds are permitted to stay in the country on an unofficial basis, settle, work, and acquire Turkish citizenship once they have resided in Turkey for five years without any interruptions. The new Settlement Law of September 2006, which amended the 1934 Law, still upholds this bias.

One group of "Turkish descent and culture" that has received protection is Bulgaria's minority Turkish community. During the last years of the communist regime in Bulgaria, harsh assimilation policies were directed towards the Turkish and Pomak minorities. Among other things, these policies forced members of these minority groups to change their names and banned use of the Turkish language. Ethnic conflicts between the Bulgarian security forces and the Turkish minorities ensued. To reduce these tensions, in 1989, the Bulgarian government expelled 300 000 Turks and Pomaks, who then sought shelter from this political persecution in Turkey. Following the regime change in Bulgaria in 1990, a third of these refugees returned, while the rest remained and acquired Turkish citizenship. With Bulgaria's recent accession to the EU, an increasing number of these Turks of Bulgarian origin have again applied for Bulgarian citizenship so as to attain the right to travel to Bulgaria and other EU countries without a visa.

Similarly, around 20 000 Bosnians were granted temporary asylum in Turkey during hostilities in the former Yugoslavia that occured between 1992 and 1995. Since the adoption of the Dayton Peace Agreement, many of these refugees have returned to Bosnia. Likewise, in 1998 and 1999, about 18 000 Kosovars escaped to Turkey and enjoyed protection from the ethnic strife in their homeland. A majority of them returned with the lessening of the conflict. [1]

The 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees is the second main legal document that has implications for refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey. By becoming a signatory of the Convention in 1962, Turkey accepted international obligations concerning asylum and refugees, but maintained a geographical limitation on the origin of persons seeking protection. It did not assume any obligations with regard to asylum-seekers and refugees from outside Europe. As it did not have specific regulations regarding the status of non-European asylum-seekers, Turkey applied its domestic laws to foreigners entering the country. According to the law, foreigners are expected to possess valid identification upon their arrival in the country and must depart within the permitted period of stay. Turkish authorities considered non-European asylum-seekers as people under temporary protection who would leave the country one way or another: either to resettle in a third country, if their asylum applications to UNHCR were accepted, or to return to their country of origin, if UNHCR rejected their applications.

In recent times, Turkey has become a major country of asylum for people escaping the mayhem caused by the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the current conflict in Iraq. Turkey has also been under pressure to align its asylum system with that of the EU. This would require Turkey to lift its geographical limitation on the origin of asylum-seekers and introduce a fully-fledged national asylum system. Turkish authorities are uneasy about lifting the limitation, fearing that Turkey could become a buffer zone for the EU, which is making its own asylum system more restrictive. Moreover, in response to growing refugee pressures from Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, Turkey has been tightening its asylum policy.


Kirişci (2001).


Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl: Aktuelle Themen

Ein Kurzdossier legt komplexe Zusammenhänge aus den Bereichen Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration auf einfache und klare Art und Weise dar. Es bietet einen fundierten Einstieg in eine bestimmte Thematik, in dem es den Hintergrund näher beleuchtet und verschiedene Standpunkte wissenschaftlich und kritisch abwägt. Darüber hinaus enthält es Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur und Internet-Verweise. Dies eröffnet die Möglichkeit, sich eingehender mit der Thematik zu befassen. Unsere Kurzdossiers erscheinen bis zu 6-mal jährlich.

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