Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

TURKEY: Tier 2

Turkey is a destination and transit country, and to a lesser extent source country, for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking victims in Turkey are primarily from Central and South Asia, Eastern Europe, Syria, and Morocco. In previous years, Georgian men and women have been subjected to forced labor. Foreign victims are offered cleaning and childcare jobs in Turkey and, upon arrival, traffickers force them into prostitution in hotels, discos, and homes. Turkish women may be subjected to sex trafficking within the country and have been reported as victims in Europe. The government and NGOs report traffickers increasingly use psychological coercion, threats, and debt bondage to compel victims into sex trafficking. Transgender persons are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, suffering from lack of protection by authorities and alleged police violence. Ethnic Roma and Syrian children are subjected to begging on the street; some of these children may be vulnerable to trafficking.

Displaced Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi nationals are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking in Turkey, particularly as an estimated one million Syrians and 100,000 Iraqis arrived in Turkey during the reporting period and face high rents and little or no access to legal employment. An increasing number of Syrian refugee children engage in street begging, and also work in restaurants, textile factories, markets, mechanic or blacksmith shops, and agriculture, at times acting as the breadwinners for their families; they are highly vulnerable to forced labor. Syrian refugee women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking by prostitution rings—including those run by extremist groups. Syrian girls are reportedly sold into marriages with Turkish men, in which they are highly vulnerable to domestic servitude or sex trafficking. International organizations and the media indicate a potential growing trend involving foreign men, women, and children—particularly from Central Asia—fraudulently recruited or coerced to join extremist fighters in Syria, sometimes through false promises of employment in Turkey or threats of deportation from the country; some of these individuals may willingly join ISIL militants, including some girls allegedly offering to marry fighters, but are subsequently forced to remain in Syria against their will. Reports indicate youth participate in Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forces, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Turkish governments; uncorroborated reports suggest Kurdish children are sometimes kidnapped and forced to participate in PKK forces.

The Government of Turkey does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government increased law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, including complicit government officials, and it identified more victims in comparison to the previous year. Despite these efforts, the government ceased funding for three NGO-run trafficking shelters in mid-2014, which left the shelters nearly inoperable until they received funding from outside sources. The government’s protocol to identify victims was not reliably applied, and NGOs alleged there were cases where sex trafficking victims were arrested, detained, and deported for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. The government continued to deny children and Turkish nationals were among trafficking victims. Some officials, including police, downplayed the seriousness of the crime and failed to recognize the need for increased vigilance to combat trafficking among the refugee population.


Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders, including complicit officials and forced labor offenders, and provide comprehensive law enforcement statistics to demonstrate such efforts against trafficking; utilize the referral mechanism to significantly increase victim identification efforts among vulnerable populations, such as refugees, women and girls in prostitution, and children begging in the streets, and provide specialized care for child, Turkish, and male victims; train law enforcement and other first-responders on victim identification, including recognizing the signs of non-physical methods of control used by traffickers; increase cooperation with NGOs and international organizations in victim identification and referral to assistance; establish a victim-centered framework for victim identification and assistance with stable funding and institutionalized partnerships with NGOs; provide victims unhindered access to protection services, including through the funding of NGO-led shelters; ensure the interagency anti-trafficking taskforce provides effective implementation of policy; and increase incentives for victims to voluntarily assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, including the use of victim advocates.


The government demonstrated increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts to combat sex trafficking, but it did not take direct action to address forced labor crimes. Article 80 of Turkey’s penal code prohibits both sex and labor trafficking by use of force, threats, or abuse of power, and prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. Article 227(1) prohibits the facilitation of child prostitution and prescribes penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. Penalties under both articles are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2013 “Foreigners and International Protection Act” provides a legal definition of trafficking and establishes trafficking victims’ eligibility for a special type of residence permit that can be renewed for up to three years.

The Ministry of Justice reported prosecuting 749 suspects in 71 sex trafficking cases under article 80 in the first three quarters of 2014. It did not provide the details of these cases. Separately, the Turkish National Police (TNP) reported conducting 30 operations resulting in the detention of dozens of suspected traffickers and the identification of 100 potential victims. In March 2015, the media reported a Turkish ISIL militant operating in Turkey was arrested and charged with forcing Syrian refugee girls into prostitution in the southern Turkish province of Hatay; the trial was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. During the first three quarters of 2014, of 62 cases completed involving 285 suspects, Turkish courts were without the jurisdiction to try 44 suspects and acquitted 216 defendants. Courts convicted 25 traffickers under article 80; however, only four received terms of imprisonment, with 21 receiving suspended sentences. The prosecutions and convictions reported in 2014 marked an increase from 2013, when the government prosecuted 196 defendants in 32 cases and convicted 17 traffickers. Nevertheless, the government again did not prosecute any forced labor crimes. In 2014, the government prosecuted three officials complicit in human trafficking under articles 227 and 80; though the details of these cases were unclear, two of the offenders were sentenced to terms of imprisonment and one was acquitted. While NGOs claimed some officials were complicit in the trafficking of Syrians, the government’s investigation of such claims found no evidence of trafficking crimes. The government reported entering into anti-trafficking cooperation agreements with various countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, and it began criminal processes against 26 alleged traffickers in cooperation with Georgian authorities during the reporting period. The government trained 3,028 officials in 2014.


The government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims, but did less to provide protection services. The government identified 50 potential trafficking victims during the first three quarters of 2014, 43 of whom were victims of sexual exploitation and seven were victims of labor exploitation, which may include trafficking crimes; this represented a significant increase from the 15 adult female victims of sex trafficking identified in 2013. Two of the victims identified were children. The victims were predominantly from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Syria. Twenty-six victims accepted support services and 24 elected for immediate repatriation, which the government facilitated. Though the TNP reported 100 potential trafficking victims discovered through law enforcement operations, it did not report referring them to protection services. Additionally, because the government did not recognize children engaged in begging or Turkish nationals could be trafficking victims; these populations were not identified or referred to care. The government reported utilization of its national referral mechanism for victim identification and assistance, which included law enforcement, civil society groups, embassies, and international organizations. During the reporting period, the government issued two directives to officials with guidance on victim identification procedures. In September 2014, the government began cooperation with the EU to improve victim identification measures, update the national referral mechanism, and broaden anti-trafficking trainings; however, the government did not provide funding for these efforts. The government did not ensure trafficking victims were not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. For example, front-line police officers often failed to identify sex trafficking victims, particularly among women in prostitution, and deported them without providing them access to victim assistance. NGOs continued to report some first-line responders and police officers were not trained in victim identification and assistance, and police and prosecutor re-assignments and firings made it difficult for NGOs to coordinate effectively with law enforcement officials.

In September 2014, the government ceased funding three NGO shelters offering assistance to victims, including psychological and medical care, legal counseling on humanitarian visa and residence permit issuance, and counseling on their rights to return home. These shelters were also closed during part of the reporting period while the NGOs waited for an international donor project to fund them. These shelters continued to be underutilized due to law enforcement’s inability to proactively identify and refer victims to shelter services. The government did not offer specialized facilities for child trafficking victims, but reported the protection and rehabilitation services for child victims of domestic violence would be used for child trafficking victims; however, similar to the previous reporting period, no data was provided to specify if child trafficking victims accessed such services. The government reported domestic and foreign victims would be given the same assistance; however, the government did not identify Turkish victims. The government continued to allow automatic residency status for 30 days to any identified foreign trafficking victim, who had the option to apply for extensions of that status for up to three years; victims were not repatriated unless they requested it.


The government demonstrated improved prevention efforts. The government convened its interagency taskforce on combating human trafficking in December 2014 for the first time since 2012; however, the government did not update its 2009 national action plan. The government continued to fund an international organization-run hotline for trafficking victims and law enforcement tips, and it publicized the phone number on pamphlets and posters in airports and other ports of entry around the country. The government also conducted public outreach on human trafficking in mid-2014 and the TNP published monthly bulletins on anti-trafficking issues. In September 2014, the government conducted field research on the trafficking of Syrian refugees and officials allegedly involved in such crimes. Though the research revealed officials were not involved in these crimes, the government committed to prevent the trafficking of this vulnerable group. The government neither made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, nor demonstrated efforts to prevent child sex tourism by Turkish nationals traveling abroad; furthermore, it denied child sex tourism occurred within Turkey or involving its nationals abroad. Turkish armed forces participated in anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.