Turkey to adopt its first law on refugees

Turkey to adopt its first law on refugees

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey to adopt its first law on refugees

Thousands of migrants every year go through Turkey in their quest for a better life. Hürriyet photo

Aiming to adhere to EU norms, Turkey is set to adopt its first ever refugee and migration law. The draft bill, submitted to Parliament last week, has been welcomed by civic society and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The bill extends rights on health services, education and legal access to refugees and asylum seekers. The UNHCR welcomed the draft as a major step forward, even though Turkey will continue to keep its geographical

reservation that denies the asylum status to non-Europeans. A UNHCR official told the Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey would lift its geographic limitation when Ankara decides it is the appropriate time.
Both an origin and a transit country for asylum seekers, Turkey has long lacked a functioning asylum system and corresponding legislation. It adopted a regulation only in 1994 after facing a massive influx of refugees from Iraq.

In 2005, Turkish authorities drew up a “National Action Plan on Asylum and Migration” and the government has been working since 2008 on immigration legislation in cooperation with civil society, the UNHCR and the ECHR in order to shape the law.

Temporary asylum

Concerned that it will draw a huge number of refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Turkey currently grants only temporary asylum to non-European refugees, reserving refugee status for Europeans. Its refusal to grant refugee status to asylum seekers entering the country from its eastern borders remains in the new draft bill.

Volkan Görendağ, the refugee-affairs coordinator of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International welcomed the draft legislation, especially the decision establishing a general directorate on migration. “We have long been asking for a civic organization to deal with refugees instead of a police department,” Görendağ told the Daily News.