Turkey: Need for continued improvement in response to protracted displacement
Returnees in Tatvan, Bitlis Province. IDMC, June 2009
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31 December 2012
There were at least 954,000 people living in internal displacement in Turkey as of the end of 2012. The country has experienced 29 years of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in its south-eastern and eastern regions. Between 1991 and 1996, a state policy of destroying villages to prevent them being used as PKK bases, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians by both parties led to the displacement of as many as 1.2 million people. The armed conflict has still not been brought to a comprehensive end and the causes and consequences of displacement remain unresolved.
Security in the south-east of the country has generally improved since the 1990s, but sporadic clashes between the military and PKK, which aims to establish an independent Kurdish homeland, have continued since 2004. In 2012, the violence spilled over into Iraq. Counter-insurgency operations against PKK in the south-eastern province of Hakkari displaced several hundred people in Semdinli district in August. Violence along Turkey's border with Syria may also have led to further displacements in the autumn, but no figures or further information are available.
The government has taken significant steps to promote IDPs' return. During the last four years, it has drafted a national strategy on displacement, adopted legislation on compensation and prepared a comprehensive pilot action plan in Van province, which addresses both rural and urban displacement. Similar plans for 13 other south-eastern provinces affected by displacement are also being developed. These are intended to form a national action plan on which to base a comprehensive response, but as of late 2012 the projects were still to be finalised.
Despite the government's efforts aimed at encouraging returns, only 187,000 IDPs had gone back to their places of origin as of 2009. The vast majority are still hesitant about the prospect of return because of ongoing intermittent conflict, the continued deployment of government village defence militias - whose members were often implicated in the original causes of displacement - and the presence of nearly a million landmines in provinces bordering Syria and Iraq, which make it impossible to earn a living from agriculture. Return areas also lack other economic opportunities, social services and basic infrastructure, both for IDPs and those who never left.
Most IDPs who are unwilling or unable to return continue living in poverty and suffering social exclusion. They have set up home on the edges of urban centres, often in illegally constructed and substandard housing. Some stayed within the affected
south-eastern provinces in cities such as Batman, Diyarbakir, Hakkari and Van, while others fled further afield to Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. In all cases, such settlements are in need of better service provision and improved living conditions.
The vast majority of IDPs are Kurdish and as such they face discrimination and limited access to housing, employment and services such as education and health. The issue of Kurdish identity continues to fuel insecurity and remains a barrier to the achievement of durable solutions. The government has taken limited but unprecedented steps in recent years to address discrimination against Kurds as part of its EU accession requirements. Such measures are still fraught with challenges, but could lead to reconciliation if they are continued.
Compensation for IDPs' material losses and physical injury as a result of the conflict continued to be paid in 2012. More than 361,000 applications were submitted, 305,000 were assessed and compensation was paid in more than 166,000 cases. Delays in making payments continued, however, and some NGOs reported excessive demands for documents to support claims, a lack of legal aid, disparities in the compensation awarded and the absence of an effective appeal procedure. Turkey still has no national strategy to address IDPs' needs.
The EU, the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs have influenced progress in responding to the needs of Turkey's displaced population. UNDP is the key UN interlocutor with the Turkish government, and it has been assisting since 2010 in the development of a national action plan. The EU, CoE and UN have underlined the need for a comprehensive plan to address the situation of IDPs, particularly in urban areas, and to ensure the achievement of durable solutions. National civil society groups continued to be critical of the government on these issues in 2012.
Around one million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Turkey continue to face protracted displacement, with many obstacles still standing in the way of durable solutions. Prevailing insecurity in south-eastern Turkey, the continuing presence of village guard militias and of mines, and under-development continue to bar their return. Integration in urban areas is still fraught with difficulties in the absence of targeted assistance, as IDPs, most of them Kurdish, face socio-economic marginalisation and discrimination.
However the government has taken notable steps to address the internal displacement situation. In the last four years, it has commissioned a national survey on the number and conditions of IDPs; drafted a national IDP strategy; adopted a law on compensation; and put together a comprehensive pilot action plan in Van Province which addresses rural and urban situations of displacement. (...)
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26 October 2009
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||Principle versus practice: Poverty and discrimination as barriers to the enjoyment of the right to education for internally displaced children (31 August 2010) HTML | PDF
Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","Background","Causes of displacement","Other causes of displacement"
"Population Figures and Profile","Global figures","Geographical Distribution"
"Patterns of Displacement","General"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","Physical security","Women","Children and adolescents","Freedom of movement","Other concerns"
"Access to Education","General"
"Issues of Self-Reliance and Public Participation","Self-reliance"
"Documentation Needs and Citizenship","Documentation needs"
"Issues of Family Unity, Identity and Culture","General","Culture"
"Property Issues","General","National Property Compensation Law","European Court of Human Rights"
"Patterns of Return and Resettlement","Return movements","Figures on Return","Policy","Return and resettlement programmes","Obstacles to return and resettlement"
"National and International Responses","National and international response","Legal framework and national policy","Policy and recommendations from international actors","Policy and Recommendations from european actors","Policy and Recommendations from Turkish civil soceity","References to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Turkey 2012 Progress Report, European Commission, 10 December 2012
- Reparations and Displacement in Turkey, International Centre for Transitional Justice and Brookings-LSE Bern Project, 12 July 2012
- Turkey Earthquake 2 November 2011, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), 2 November 2011
- ECRI Report on Turkey (Fourth Monitoring Cycle), Council of Europe (COE), European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), 8 February 2011
- Displacement in the Kurdish Regions, Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), 2011
- Report by Thomas Hammarberg Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Following his visit to Turkey on 28 June – 3 July 2009, Council of Europe (COE), Commissioner for Human Rights, October 2009
- Comments of the Republic of Turkey on the Report regarding "Human Rights of Minorities" by Mr. T. Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe following his visit to Turkey (28 June - 3 July 2009), Government of Turkey, October 2009
- Permanent Solution to Internal Displacement? An Assessment of the Van Action Plan for IDPs, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), May 2009
- National and Regional Laws and Policies on Internal Displacement - Turkey, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, 2009
- Support to the Development of an IDP Programme in Turkey: Additional Component for the Sustainability and Scale up of the Pilot Activity Carried Out in Van Province, August 2008 - September 2009, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), August 2008
- Coming to Terms with Forced Migration: Post Displacement Restitution of Citizenship Rights in Turkey, TESEV, 30 August 2007
- Van Province Action Plan for the IDPs Service Delivery, Governorate of Van, Republic of Turkey, September 2006