In response to the large population movements which took place during and after World War II, the right to asylum was defined in a special United Nations Convention on the basis of Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Genova Convention) signed on July 28, 1951 by representatives of 26 countries defined the concept of the refugee, the rights of refugees and the obligations of states. Turkey is a signatory to this convention. Limitations based on the phrase “events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951” found in the original introductory note was lifted—albeit partially—with the 1967 New York Protocol; however, a number of countries including Turkey still apply a geographical limitation. As such, Turkey implements the 1951 Genova Convention with geographic limitations, and thus denies refugee status to migrants from outside Europe. Law Number 6458 on the International Protection of Foreign Nationals, approved on April 4, 2013, is the first piece of legislation in Turkey regarding asylum law. The law has replaced the concept of asylum seeker found in the 1994 Regulation with the term “conditional refugee,” and states that conditional refugees will be allowed to stay in Turkey until being sent to a third country. However, the geographic limitation exists in the law, too. According to Article 62 of the said law, “A conditional refugee is a person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for belonging to a race, religion, national or social group due to events taking place in non-European countries.” Nevertheless Article 61/1 defines a “refugee” as someone who has the same fear due to “events taking place in European countries.” According to Article 91, “Temporary protection is the protection granted to foreign nationals who were forced to flee their countries, cannot return to their country of origin, and arrive at or cross the Turkish border in search for urgent and temporary protection.” The Regulation on Temporary Protection, which regulates the conditions of Syrian refugees based on this article, came into force in October 2014. Although the regulation was passed in response to the flow of migrants from the Syrian war, its jurisdiction is not limited to Syrians.
(Source: Legal Situation of Syrians in Turkey, Seta Report, 2015)
December 2015: EU-Turkey Summit on Refugees
On November 29, 2015 the EU-Turkey Summit took place, aiming to “revive relations with Turkey and stem the flow of migrants” in the words of the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. At the summit, leaders of the EU and Turkey agreed to cooperate in order to control the flow of Syrian migrants to the EU. At the summit held in Brussels, the EU committed itself to enhancing relations with Turkey in three areas in return for its cooperation in the issue of refugees: the acceleration of Turkey‘s EU membership process; financial support of 3 billion Euros; granting Turkish citizens visafree travel to the Schengen Zone; and the admission of 400,000 Syrians to Europe by legal means. Cooperation is demanded from Turkey in the following areas: Ankara will reinforce border security; fight effectively against human trafficking; and sign the Readmission Agreement. EU Commission‘s ex-vice president Verheugen made the following assessment of the summit: “It is evident that EU has brought its relations with Turkey to the next level; but not with a view to fulfilling its promise of membership to Turkey but rather due to its need for Turkey to overcome the refugee crisis. Some EU leaders have openly stated that ‘We speak to Turkey because we have to.’ I do not think that mutual trust can be rebuilt through such a perspective. There has been no essential change to EU‘s policies in regard to Turkey.”