On 31 May 2021, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and International Organization for Migration (IOM) jointly launched the EU-funded “Supporting Removal Centres’ Capacities and Fostering Alternatives to Administrative Detention” and “Supporting DGMM in the Management, Reception and Hosting of Irregular Migrants” projects to help manage continuously increasing irregular migration flows and improve conditions in removal centres.
As a transit and destination country, Turkey hosts approximately 5 million foreigners as of May 2021, including those in need of international protection. Turkey has encountered significant migratory pressure in recent years, triggered by a substantial increase in irregular border crossings where the ones in vulnerable situations need to be referred to appropriate services and authorities, and others need to be safely returned to their countries of origin in line with international standards.
Over the last years, Turkey has developed a comprehensive legal and institutional framework and established DGMM in charge of managing the processes and procedures pertaining to foreign nationals, including persons in need of international protection.
The EU continues to support the Turkish authorities in the area of migration management. In 2019, the EU mobilized EUR 25.8 million to implement two projects supporting DGMM. The Project ‘Supporting DGMM in the Management, Reception and Hosting of Irregular Migrants’ will continue supporting the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and aims at improving conditions in removal centres; with a budget of EUR 22.3 million, the second project Supporting Removal Centres’ Capacities and Fostering Alternatives to Administrative Detention will be jointly implemented by IOM, as the lead agency of the project, and UNHCR. This project focuses on improving compliance with international and European standards by strengthening access to rights and services in removal centres, enhancing procedural safeguards and fostering alternatives to detention in line with latest legislative amendments.
The European Union Head of Delegation, Ambassador H.E. Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut stated that the launched projects mark the European Union’s continued commitment to supporting migration management in Turkey. “We are convinced that the projects will contribute to DGMM’s important work in this field over the next three years and will further increase compliance with international and European standards.”
Deputy Minister of Interior İsmail Çataklı highlighted that DGMM develops and implements important policies on various issues such as addressing irregular migration, establishing removal centres, improving social cohesion of foreigners, and providing voluntary return assistance: “We have launched two key projects to increase the administrative capacities of our removal centres and carry out important activities on alternative measures to detention. Besides aligning the legal and administrative system of Turkey in line with the EU acquis and standards in the field irregular migration management, the project implies full support in the establishment of removal centers, including employment of qualified personnel and procurement of necessary goods and services.”
DGMM General Director, Dr Savaş Ünlü emphasized that alternative mechanisms to detention will be further advanced, and migration management will be systematically structured: “We aim to continue our operational activities in all areas of migration management and leverage projects implementation to develop long term and comprehensive policies”.
‘’The results of any project can only be successfully accomplished through strong cooperation’’, said IOM Turkey Chief of Mission Lado Gvilava. ‘’The capacity-building activities under this project will mitigate the burden on the operational capacities of removal centers and will help develop pathways to alternatives to detention, as well as ensure proper provision of services to migrants with a human rights-based approach, as emphasized in the Law on Foreigners and International Protection.’’
In his opening remarks, UNHCR Representative, Mr. Philippe Leclerc indicated that “Distinguishing those in need of international protection from others wherever encountered is crucial to ensure compliance with the fundamental principles of international law, non-refoulement being the primary one.” Mr. Leclerc further highlighted the significance of the flexibility to adapt to the evolving nature of the movements along with the rapidly changing priorities of the response by the asylum institution of the Turkey and added: “We hope this project will be a success for all concerned parties and will enable the further reinforcement of protection-sensitive border management and contribute to relieve some of the pressure on national authorities.
The newly launched projects will contribute to Turkey’s efforts in improving the procedures and conditions in the removal centres and support DGMM in migration management, reception and hosting of irregular migrants and implementation of ATDs. The projects will be implemented in line with international principles and EU standards on migration management, leveraging past experience of similar programs in Turkey and around the world.