The number of foreigners seeking international protection in Turkey increased dramatically in 2013 compared to 2005, an official report showed.
A report released by the Directorate General of Migration Management, the first of its kind in Turkey, revealed that about 3,000 people applied for international protection in Turkey in 2005. In 2011, however, this number rose by about 17,000 and exceeded 30,000 in 2013.
The report provides information on the number of foreigners legally entering Turkey, the estimated number of illegal immigrants and those who applied for international protection, including more than 100,000 people who applied for protection in Turkey between 2005 and 2013.
Taner Kılıç, a lawyer and the chairman of Amnesty International Turkey's board, suggested Afghans and Iraqis constituted the core surge in demands for international protection. "The number of Afghans coming into Turkey from Iran during the second quarter of 2012 increased 1,500 percent compared to the same period in 2011," he said, adding that number of Iraqis seeking international protection had also increased due to the worsening situation there.
The report did not include information on the country of origin of the applicants.
The Directorate General of Migration Management said international protection could be granted in the form of "refugee, conditional refuge, subsidiary protection or temporary protection" status. The law requires Turkey to grant subsidiary protection to those who could face capital punishment, be subjected to torture in their homeland or be in danger due to war or conflict. Citizens of any nationality can apply for subsidiary protection in Turkey.
When compared to EU member states, the Directorate General of Migration Management's report said Turkey was the fourth country in 2013 in terms of the number of applicants requesting international protection; Germany topped the list.
The Directorate General of Migration Management stressed that this did not include Syrians fleeing the civil war since the exodus prevented the office from processing all applications properly. Rather than processing the applications, Turkey provided these refugees with "temporary shelters," according to the report.
Ankara cannot give refugee status to Syrians due to self-imposed geographical restrictions Turkey specified in 1962 when it ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. The restriction disqualifies all but the citizens of member states of the Council of Europe to be considered as refugees in Turkey.
Following the escalation of the civil war in Syria in 2011, Ankara enacted an open-door policy for Syrians fleeing the war. In 2013, the government reformed its law on foreigners and international protection, harmonizing Turkey's rules regarding foreigners' visits and residence in Turkey with EU laws. The report revealed that the number of foreigners entering Turkey had increased more than 50 percent, from 20 million in 2005 to 32 million in 2013. Among these visitors, Germany tops the list. In 2013, about 5 million Germans and 4.2 million Russians visited Turkey for variety of reasons including tourism, followed by the U.K., Georgia, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
The report also disclosed that more than 8,000 people were denied entry to the country in 2013. In 2013, about 40 percent of those people were denied entry because they were blacklisted, the report said.
Turkish authorities issued more than 150,000 residence permits in 2005 while this figure doubled by 2013. Among the new residents in 2013, Syrians (46,252) hold the first spot, followed by citizens of Azerbaijan, Russia and Germany. A total of 16 percent of residence permits were issued for educational purposes while 14 percent were for work-related purposes, the report said.
The report also provided some very specific estimates for illegal immigrants. According to the report, the number of illegal immigrants dropped from 57,428 in 2005 to 39,890 in 2013. Syrians also topped that list. More than 15,000 Syrians were caught while coming into Turkey illegally in 2013, followed by Afghans (5,991) and people from Myanmar (2,483).