The new Turkish Law on Foreigners and International Protection has been welcomed by NGOs, UNHCR and the European Commission. Oktay Durukan of ECRE member organisation in Turkey, the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly (HCA), told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin that the new law represents a “hugely important step forward in the right direction for Turkey”.
Turkey has not lifted its ‘geographical limitation’ and therefore non-European refugees will still not have the right to long-term protection in the country. However, in other areas, according to HCA, the law brings Turkish asylum legislation almost entirely in line with EU standards for reception, procedures for the recognition of refugees, and, for the first time, other beneficiaries of international protection. The law provides basic procedural safeguards including appeals against negative asylum decisions and deportation orders with automatic suspensive effect. Furthermore, lawyers and UNHCR are guaranteed access to pre removal detention centres.
The law also provides for accommodation for asylum seekers; seven reception centres are currently under construction, largely funded by the EU. All beneficiaries of international protection in Turkey will be entitled to free healthcare, although restrictions will still apply to access to the labour market.
HCA expressed concerns that shortcomings in EU legislation have been transferred into this law too, including provisions for accelerated procedures and the introduction of the Safe Third Country concept. HCA is also concerned that the time limit of 15 days to file an appeal, and the short supply of legal assistance providers in the country could make the process extremely difficult in practice.
HCA welcomed the transparency with which the negotiations were conducted, with opportunities for civil society stakeholders to contribute to the process.
The new law establishes a new civilian asylum and migration authority, under the Ministry of the Interior, which will also prepare the implementing legislation.
According to UNHCR, Turkey is hosting 34,576 asylum seekers and refugees originating from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia, as well as 293,000 Syrian refugees.