Rights Denied: What is the Fate of Turkmen Migrants Abroad

In preparation for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Turkmenistan several civil society organisations have raised concerns about Turkmen government’s failure to respect and protect the rights of its citizens.

Reports by Turkmen and international civil society organisations were submitted by Human Rights Watch, Crude Accountability, a joint memorandum by the University of Southern California Human Rights Advocacy Group and Freedom for Eurasia, and a joint report by the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR). They have raised a number of human rights concerns including a dire situation and status of Turkmen migrants in Turkey.

  • Passports: Renewing passports at consular offices abroad became impossible for Turkmen citizens living abroad and they are required to travel home. During COVID-19 travelling to Turkmenistan was not possible and many Turkmen citizens’ passports expired. In July 2021, Turkmen embassies started to issue stamps that served as passport extensions. However, such extended passports have not been recognized as a valid document and many Turkmens were unable to travel inside and outside of Turkey.
  • Birth certificates: Turkmen consulates do not issue birth certificates to the children of Turkmen migrants born in Turkey which is a violation of their constitutional rights. Parents are required to travel home to apply for and obtain the birth certificates. Parents are required to travel to Turkmenistan to apply for and obtain the birth certificates for their newborns.
  • Visa regime to Turkey: In September 2022 at the request of Turkmen government Turkey ended the visa free travel regime with Turkmenistan. As a result of expired passports and the newly introduced visa system hundreds of thousands of Turkmens found themselves living illegally and undocumented in Turkey. This means they do not have any formal protection, health insurance and face difficulties in finding jobs and travelling freely. As of September 1, 2022, there were roughly 230,000 Turkmen citizens living in Turkey legally. However, the actual number might be much higher.
  • Repatriation for deceased: There is a lack of repatriation services for deceased Turkmen citizens in Turkey which has resulted in mass burials in cemeteries such as Kilos and Cologne. In March 2020, over 50 Turkmen citizens were poisoned with tainted alcohol and died as a result. An unknown number of citizens of Turkmenistan died of COVID-19. An unknown number of Turkmen citizens died during the devastating earthquake in Turkey in February 2023. Given the lack of valid passports, it was difficult for people to identify their dead or to arrange for repatriation. Turkmen authorities did not help these families to repatriate their loved ones and perform a traditional burial process. Meanwhile, some Turkmen migrants who expressed their concerns to Turkmen authorities through peaceful demonstrations experienced harassment, beating and their families in Turkmenistan were threatened.

About the UPR review process

UPR is a peer-review process conducted by the UN Human Rights Council every 4.5 years to review the human rights records of all UN Member States. Turkmenistan submitted its third cycle UPR Report in 2018 and accepted 172 recommendations out of 193.

The fourth cycle of the review for Turkmenistan will be on November 6-10, 2023. On 14 February 2023 the government of Turkmenistan along with UNDP, its long-term partner in the preparation of national reports for the UN treaty bodies, discussed the first draft of the national report on the fourth cycle of the UPR. However, the report is still not available on the designated webpage for Turkmenistan although it should have been submitted in August 2023.

The UPR Working Group will base its assessment and recommendations on three documents: (1) a national report submitted by the Turkmen government, (2) a report compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and (3) shadow reports submitted by NGOs. During 3.5-hour interactive session representatives from Turkmenistan will present their country report, respond to any written and oral questions from other UN Member States and decide which of the recommendations to agree to.

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