At the Brink of Existence: Report on Rights Violations Against Refugees – January & September 2020

As of 23 September 2020, there are 3 621 968 Syrian refugees and around 400 000 refugees of other countries under temporary protection living in Turkey. Furthermore, more than one million irregular migrants stay in Turkey according to estimates.

The status of temporary protection provides some positive effects and opportunities to registered Syrians. However, the Syrian population in Turkey still suffers from many shortcomings, including insufficient education, health care, shelter, nourishment, protection from violence and discrimination, low salaries, insufficient access to justice, and major issues regarding the fulfillment of basic needs. All these apply to irregular migrants in a more severe manner and put them at an even higher risk. The fact that hate crimes against refugees are on the rise, often end deadly and the behavior of protecting the perpetrators on all levels adds on top of all these shortcomings, increasing fears.

According to our observations, even refugees with a legal status report civil wrongs and crimes committed against them less and less to judicial authorities due to fears of deportation.

That is also one of the reasons crimes committed against refugees happen so often. These include violence against women, sexual abuse, rights violations of children, labor exploitation, discrimination, violation of labor law, and the obstruction of access to justice.

Discrimination suffered in official institutions, hate speech, and the lack of feasible solutions offered by the state to bridge the language barrier also play an important role in this downward spiral.

The fact that applications are submitted despite these huge challenges can be seen as an indicator of how dire the issues really are.

The diversity of the refugees submitting applications to our association represents the diversity of Turkey’s refugees.

Nationalities of the refugees whose applications are included in this report sorted according to their number; Syria, Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, Palestine, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Gambia, Kongo, Cameroon, Russia, China, Turkmenistan, Algeria and Jordan

List of the most prevalent issues in applications to our association included in this report; Demand for protection, violation of the prohibition on deportation, demand for asylum in Turkey, torture and maltreatment, bad conditions in deportation centers, missing people, confiscation of the temporary-protection-ID, Rejection of applications for Turkish citizenship, violation of the right to education connected to the residence permit, violation of the right to health care due to not renewed IDs, threats of deportation, unjust deportation and administrative detention sentences, unemployment, poverty and rejection of social assistance, violation of the right to free movement, violence, threats, sexual abuse, labor law violations, rejection of paying salaries.

List of the most prevalent issues according to an analysis of news media outputs; Detention, torture and maltreatment, violation of the right to life, and pressure on journalists and lawyers dealing with refugees.

Major rights violations and number of cases according to the applications to our association

Detention 2
Torture and maltreatment 4
Violations of the right to life:

– Deaths caused by security forces 1

– Deaths on the journey to safety 61

– Deaths caused in hate crimes 4

– Deaths from workplace homicide 62

Total of 128
Wounded in hate crimes 20
Violations of the right to asylum

-Applications for international refugee status 59

– Applications for Turkish asylum 16

Total of 75
Violation of the prohibition on deportation 6
Bad conditions in the deportation centers 4
Missing persons 3
Not receiving temporary-protection-ID 10
Not receiving Turkish citizenship 1
Violation of the right to education 3
Violation of the right to health care 1
No social assistance regarding poverty and unemployment 10
Not receiving salaries for labor 5
Violation of the right to free movement 209
Discrimination 1
Violence against women and sexual abuse 2
Applications from Turkish refugees in other countries 2
Pressure towards journalists reporting on refugees through detention 12
Obstructions of lawyers working with refugees 1
  Total of 443

(Our report includes both, information from the applications submitted to the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association during the first nine months of 2020, and from an analysis of outputs of the news media in the same time frame.

The media analysis benefitted from the daily rights violation reports of the TIHV documentation unit, which scans and checks the outputs of the following news media organizations:

Vatan, Milliyet, Hürriyet, Habertürk, Evrensel, Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Fırat Haber Ajansı, Jinnews, ETHA, Mezopotamya Ajansı, Yurt, Yeni Yaşam, NTV, Yeni Asya, Bianet,, Cnnturk, Tr724, İleri Haber, Siyasi Haber, Alınteri, Kızılbayrak,, Yüksekova Haber, T24, Diken, Gazete Karınca, Gazete Duvar, Haber Sol, El Cezire, BBC, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, AFP)

Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch

For the full report in Turkish:

Yaşamın Kıyısındakiler: Mültecilere Yönelik Hak İhlalleri Raporu – Ocak – Eylül 2020