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Turkey: New Law on Foreigners and International Protection

(Apr. 18, 2013) On April 10, 2013, Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gul, approved the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, to establish a legal framework for migration and asylum. (Turkish President Approves Law on Rights of Foreigners, TURKISH PRESS.COM (Apr. 10, 2013); Yabancilarve Uluslararasi Koruma Kanunu [Law on Foreigners and International Protection], RESMI GAZETE (Apr. 4, 2013).)

The move was welcomed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres. A spokesperson stated, “UNHCR … considers this an important advancement for international protection … .” (Turkish Law on Protection of Foreigners Wins UN Praise, UN NEWS CENTRE(Apr. 12, 2013).)

Previously, asylum and refugee matters were covered in Turkey under secondary legislation such as administrative circulars. This is the first domestic law on asylum. (Cavidan Soykan, The New Draft Law on Foreigners and International Protection in Turkey, 2 OXFORD MONITOR OF FORCED MIGRATION 38-47 (Nov. 2012).)

The Law states that foreigners and others with international protection will not be sent back to places where they will be tortured, suffer inhumane treatment or punishment that is humiliating, or be threatened due to race, religion, or group membership. (Turkish President Approves Law on Rights of Foreigners, supra.)

Other provisions of the Law include:

  • setting up an agency in the Turkish Ministry of Justice on international protection to implement related regulations;
  • limiting to four hours the length of time foreigners entering the country can be made to wait if they are to undergo comprehensive investigations;
  • limiting to five years the length of time a person can be banned from entering the country, unless the person is considered a serious threat to order and security, in which case the ban can be ten years;
  • giving foreigners with expired residence permits the opportunity to apply to a governor’s office to be eligible for just a one-year ban on entering the country; and
  • stipulating that foreigners remaining in the country for more than 90 days must apply for residence permits. The permits must be used within six months to remain valid. (Turkish Law on Protection of Foreigners Wins UN Praise, supra.)

In addition, the law states that, when there are “reasonable suspicions” that fraud has been committed, Turkish authorities will have the right to investigate marriages between their citizens and foreigners. Those foreigners with residence permits who stay in the country for eight years continuously will be able to receive unlimited residence permits. (EU Welcomes New Turkish Law on Foreigners, TODAY’S ZAMAN (Apr. 5, 2013).)

The EU Commission also issued a statement praising both the adoption of the Law and the efforts Turkey has already put forth on behalf of refugees. (Id.)

Until the new Law is fully implemented, the UNHCR will continue its current practice of offering support and expertise to Turkey. The assistance is needed because Turkey is currently hosting more than 327,000 refugees, including 293,000 people from Syria and others from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia. (Briefing Notes, UNHCR, UNHCR Welcomes Turkey’s New Law on Asylum (Apr. 12, 2013).)