Turkey on Irregular Migration

I. General Information:

Turkey, which was traditionally a ‘source’ and ‘transit’ country for migration, has now become also a ‘destination’ country with her strengthening economy.

Irregular migration is a global problem and has global repercussions. The solutions are beyond the means of a single country, requiring international burden sharing. All countries should exert joint efforts in order to prevent and overcome the problems brought by irregular migration.

Economic and political instabilities in its neighboring regions pose a significant challenge for Turkish migration policy. Turkey, while focusing on successful migration management, is at the same time taking every precaution to prevent irregular migration.

Turkey is of the opinion that sustainable solution to irregular migration can only be attained if the “push factors” such as wars and conflicts, human rights violations and economic deprivation in many of the origin countries are prevented. It is of utmost importance that destination countries support peace processes and promote peaceful settlement of disputes in conflict-affected areas and to step up humanitarian aid and development investments in the countries of transit and origin.

Turkey believes that a human rights based, coherent and comprehensive migration policies as well as offering migrants and asylum-seekers legal channels to enter and stay in destination countries and integration measures are crucial.

There is also a need for fighting more vigorously racism and xenophobia and consolidating the common human rights culture, and embracing the diversity of cultures and religions. It is also of great significance to prevent the negative discourse against migrants and asylum-seekers that has the potential to feed radical tendencies.

II. Statistical data on irregular migration

Turkey is determined to continue its efforts to prevent irregular migration.

Number of irregular migrants, apprehended while attempting to cross our territory during 2005-2016, has been approximately 900.000. In 2016, almost 175.000 irregular migrants were apprehended by the Turkish authorities. Almost 37.000 of whom were rescued at sea by the Turkish Coast Guard Command. In 2017, 175.752 irregular migrants were apprehended in Turkey.

The Turkish Coast Guard has initiated an “Operation Safe Med” in the Mediterranean Sea and “Operation Aegean Hope” in the Aegean Sea in 2015 in order to maintain safety and security at seas.

III. Fight against Irregular Migration

A) Legal measures:

Turkey signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Additional Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air in December 2000. This Agreement and its Protocols are ratified at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in March 2003.

The Turkish Penal Code defines migrant smuggling as a crime. The Penal Code provisions stipulate penalties of 3 to 8 years of imprisonment and 10.000 days judicial fines to migrant smugglers. If the crime is committed by perpetrators acting as an organization, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by half. The Code also provides for coercive measures on legal entities involved in migrant smuggling.

The “Law on Foreigners and International Protection” (LFIP) No:6458 has entered into force on 11 April 2013 with a view to protect human rights of migrants on the basis of national and international legislation and ensuring effective migration management. This law constitutes a crucial step to develop a legislation on migration in harmony with human rights and the EU legislation. Law on Foreigners and International Protection translated into 11 languages ​​and can be accessed via http://www.goc.gov.tr web page.

Within the framework of Law on Foreigners and International Protection, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) was established in order to make migration management more efficient and form a migration policy as well as stem irregular migration.

Our Ministry also participates in the works of the Coordination Council against Irregular Migration under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior with a view to evaluate international dimension of irregular migration along with its negative reflections in our bilateral relations.

B. Administrative Measures:

Turkey, with a view to prevent irregular migration, has strengthened border controls, intensified cooperation among law enforcement agencies; increased penalties for migrant smugglers, prepared Action Plan for Migrant Smuggling; initiated operations for dismantling migrant smuggling networks, increased capacity of Turkish Coast Guard Command and removal centers.

C. International Cooperation

Given the complex and cross-border nature of the irregular migration, international cooperation and solidarity are indispensable to find a solution. With this understanding, Turkey participates in almost every international and regional activity in this field.

Turkey attaches importance to bilateral and regional cooperation with its neighbors in the field of irregular migration.

Turkey became a member of International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 30 November 2004. In addition to migration issues, Turkey is also cooperating with the said organization in combating human trafficking.

Turkey holds the chairmanship of the Budapest Process on migration management since 2006. The Budapest Process is a consultative forum of more than 50 governments and 10 international organisations exchanging information and best practices on a wide range of migration issues. Upon Turkey’s initiative the Process expanded to the East to include the "Silk Routes Countries". On 19 April 2013, marking the Process’s 20th anniversary, the Turkish Chair organized the 5th Budapest Process Ministerial Conference where the Istanbul Ministerial Declaration on "A Silk Routes Partnership for Migration" was adopted. Turkey, as the Chair of the Budapest Process, promotes informal, flexible and equal level consultations between all participating and observing countries and organisations with a view to improve migration management.

Turkey assumed the chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) for a period of 18 months, from July 2014 until the end of December 2015 and hosted the 8th GFMD Summit Meeting in İstanbul on 14-16 October 2015. The overarching theme of the Turkish Chairmanship was “Strengthening Partnerships: Human Mobility for Sustainable Development” with an understanding that international migration can be managed effectively with cooperation of all stakeholders; including international organizations, civil society, the private sector and migrants themselves. During its Chairmanship, Turkey put emphasis on the postive aspects of migration on development as well as enhancing the focus of states and governments on the migrants themselves by putting their rights and well-being into the centre of attention.

Turkey actively participates in the Global Compact on Migration Process led by the United Nations. The Global Compact will be a framework for global migration management. The Compact will be finalized in December 2018.

Turkey has institutional cooperation with Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, via the Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2012 and the “Action Plan” for 2014-2016 signed in February 2014. Frontex liaison officer in Turkey has assumed his duties as of 1 April 2016.

Readmission agreements are effective instruments in combating irregular migration and encouraging states to take serious measures against this phenomenon. Turkey has signed and proposed readmission agreements with a number of source countries with a view to curbing irregular migration.

Turkey has readmission agreement with 15 countries (Greece, Russian Federation, Yemen, Nigeria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Romania, Syria, Ukraine, Belarus, Montenegro, Moldova, Kosovo and Norway).