The International Federation of Iranian Refugees and Immigrants Councils (IFIRIC)
IFIRIC Mission Statments



A Report by Maryam Namazie


Since its establishment in 1979, refugees have been an inseparable component of the rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran with millions fleeing due to persecution on account of political opinion, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality. Many have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey.

Turkey is a party to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, yet it has limited its international obligations by maintaining a geographical reservation1 thereby eliminating any responsibility to non-European refugees. Given this geographical reservation, prior to the Fall of 1994, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would determine refugee status and facilitate third-country resettlement with the understanding that refugees would not remain in Turkey permanently.

On November 30, 1994, however, the Turkish government adopted Decision Number 94/6169 "The Regulation on the Procedures and Principles Related to Mass Influx and the Foreigners Arriving in Turkey either as Individuals or in Groups Wishing to Seek Asylum either from Turkey or Requesting Residence Permits with the Intention of Seeking Asylum from a Third Country" (hereafter called the Regulation). The Regulation formalized the Turkish government's practice since July 1994 of processing the asylum claims of non-Europeans. It was prepared by the Ministry of Interior (MOI), which is part of the Directorate of General Security and primarily concerned with "security" issues, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). There were no consultations with the UNHCR or legal experts.

Consequently, the Regulation has been criticized on both technical and substantive grounds by legal experts.2 According to the Regulation, the Turkish government must determine whether an Iranian3 is an asylum seeker4 before s/he may present her/his claim to the UNHCR. After this determination, the UNHCR makes its own separate assessment as before, submitting for resettlement only those it has recognized. As before, Iranians cannot remain permanently in Turkey and must be resettled in a third country. The Regulation requires Iranians to file their asylum claims within five days after entry at a local governate. Those arriving without passports must file their asylum claims at the governate nearest where they entered the country. Once an asylum seeker is interviewed by the police, the information is forwarded to the Ministry of Interior (MOI). The MOI reaches a decision on the claim after taking into consideration the "opinions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other relevant ministries and national agencies" (Article 6 of the Regulation). The Regulation makes no mention of soliciting the UNHCR's opinion.

If an asylum seeker receives a positive decision, s/he is given a temporary residence permit to allow her/him to remain in Turkey temporarily so that s/he can be resettled in a third country by the UNHCR. If an asylum seeker receives a negative decision by the MOI, s/he will receive a deportation order which can be appealed within 15 days. If the appeal is denied or if there is no appeal made, the asylum seeker is deported. Those who have not applied to the government for various reasons, including having missed the five-day deadline, are immediately refouled without any assessment of their claim by the Turkish authorities.

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