Excruciating refugee life in Turkey

  By: Kaveh Taheri 

Refugees in Turkey are grappling with shortages and deficiencies; which made their life so difficult in a way that they cannot bear it. Refugees are deprived of their basic and most obvious human needs in the country.

Processing of asylum cases, registration time, interview appointment and refugee acceptance take too long and there is a long line waiting to get to the destination country (Third Country); all of these issues provide many problems for refugees and asylum seekers.

The first violation of human rights is by the hands of the UNHCR Office. Questioning refugees’ attitudes and opinions during the time of registration is a human rights violation. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Lack of supporting law for asylum seekers and refugees, and the lack of recreational and educational facilities for infants make the life of asylum seekers all the much more difficult. This issue is considered in article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first paragraph of article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, explicitly points to educational services.
After many years, insurance is provided for asylum seekers. Lack of attention and care for the situation of sick refugees, asylum seekers and elderly people who need medical attention; along with the lack of medical facilities and health care for life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, imperils the well-being of refugees and asylum seekers.


Also of note, asylums are not entitled to any protection for housing; yet article 25 of declaration refers to the right for housing.

Asylum seekers have no right to have property. They cannot even buy a phone SIM card. This issue has been referred in Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Refugees in Turkey do not have the right to have a job. So they have to work in/as labor work (Black work) and these results in a dire situation. Working hours are 10 to 15 hours a day, without monthly leave and unfair wages which make their lives terrible. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is referring to this issue.

And there is a point which is not a problem, but it is a disaster; and is a crime against humanity. Due to a lack of legal protection for asylum seekers, sometimes employers misuse this issue and this sadly becomes a source of sexual abuse.

Because of the lack of rights for refugees to work and the illegal nature of their work, there are a lot of employers who simply choose to not pay.

Asylum seekers do not have labor insurance, and if the police are informed of this, they will fine the asylum seeker.

There is no financial assistance for the asylum seeker. Only after acceptance as a refugee, in certain circumstances and based on unprincipled choices, a very small amount of monthly financial assistance is given to a few numbers of refugees; which unfortunately is not even covering half of house rental.

Having beliefs like Christianity, Baha’is, atheism or communism, are additional concerns for many asylum seekers. The asylum seekers often suffer from humiliating behavior from Turk and Muslim citizens; insults directed at their nationality, creed and faith by Turkish citizens are some of the other problems for those living in this country.

Job, physical, psychological and financial insecurity are other concerns and problems of refugees and asylum seekers; addressed in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Some of UNHCR’s lawyer creates an unsafe atmosphere by asking irrelevant questions with prejudice such as, about being Atheist or Christian – which puts the refugee in a predicament and pain.


Several cases have been reported about refugee women who were raped and sexually abused, and unfortunately, for fear of their honor, they refused to report or complain.

Regarding the article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about the right to move and travel in the country, asylum seeker and refugees can only travel to other cities for the purpose of official works and interviews.


Another problem that is placing the refugees in unimaginable critical situation is incorrect translation by UNHCR translators because they are not fluent in Farsi and they are causing the refugee cases to be denied.


Despite all these problems, in case of any protests, sit-ins and hunger strikes by the refugees, not only do the officials not care to solve the problems, but the protesters are exiled to cities with bad weather and inappropriate geographical conditions. This is while article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers to the formation of peaceful protest.

The UN has sadly has no effective action(s) regarding any of these issues so far. Turkey is positioned strategically in terms of geographical location and asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan come to this country.


Kaveh Taheri is a journalist specializing in human rights.