The status of thousands of Syrian refugees living inside Turkey has been brought into question after the interim government’s Ministry of Justice published a translation of the Turkish citizenship law on October 28.
According to the ministry’s legal office, the document was published with the intention of helping to spread “legal awareness” among Syrian refugees, adding it aims to publish a version of the law’s executive regulations, including other translations of all Turkish laws that relate to Syrians residing in Turkey.
The office also confirmed that according to Turkish law individuals may only be granted citizenship through claims to Turkish “descent and place of birth”.
Syrians: A Special Case
According to the translated law, any child, regardless of the parents’ citizenship, born stateless inside Turkish territory will immediately become a citizen of Turkey, while any child found inside Turkey will be considered born there unless proven otherwise. As such, any Syrian children born in Turkey should automatically be granted Turkish citizenship.
But the reality is somewhat different. Syrians are treated as a ‘special case’, and are therefore subject to specific paragraphs in the Foreigners Act, according to Abdul Ilah Ahmed, director of the ministry’s legal office.
Ahmed told Enab Baladi that in such a case, children must be born to parents with no nationality (stateless) in order to acquire Turkish citizenship.
Any child born to a legally wedded Turkish parent, father or mother, inside or outside Turkey, is considered a Turkish citizen. The same applies for a child born to a Turkish mother and a foreign father through unrecognized wedlock.
A child born inside an unrecognized marriage between a Turkish father and a foreign mother will be granted citizenship once descent is proven, all the required paperwork is provided, and the right procedures are taken.
Marriage to a Turkish citizen does not grant immediate citizenship. Instead, it only allows the right to apply after at least three years of marriage, under the condition the marriage will be continued. The death of the partner does not imply the loss of the citizenship.
A number of other conditions are also necessary to grant Turkish citizenship besides the approval from authorities: for example, applicants must be of legal adult age in their country of origin, and have continuously lived in Turkey for five years or more before applying for citizenship.
Ahmed added that applicants’ residency status prior to applying for citizenship should also be legal, and that any prior illegal residency will not be considered part of the compulsory five-year minimum.
The applicants must also be of good general health during their time in Turkey, as well as possess “good manners” with the ability to communicate in Turkish. Applicants must also have professional qualifications or experience in order to financially support themselves and their families, and not pose a national security threat.
In addition to the previous conditions, all applicants are asked to renounce all the other citizenships they hold. The Cabinet of Turkey is authorized to evaluate all of the above.
Around 2 million Syrians currently live in Turkey, either inside the cities or in camps, with most carrying refugee identity cards due to the high cost of the more popular tourist residency.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.