NEWS

Turkish asylum requests on the rise

YIANNIS PAPADOPOULOS

TAGS: Diplomacy

An increasing number of Turkish nationals have been finding their way to Greece since the failed coup attempt in the neighboring country and the mass purges that followed.

More specifically, 236 Turks requested political asylum in Greece from last July until February. According to official data from the Asylum Service seen by Kathimerini, the rising trend in the number of requests was already discernible by early 2016.

From the beginning of 2016 until the eve of the coup attempt in July, 51 Turks had requested asylum in Greece, while there were 43 requests in 2015 and 41 in 2014. In 2013, there were just 17 requests.

The highest rate of asylum requests – 138 – was recorded in the period from July 15, 2016 until the end of the year. This trend continued into 2017, with 98 requests made in January and February.

But the number of Turks requesting asylum could rise even more as not all people who have arrived in Greece and told police they would request asylum have actually done so officially at the Asylum Service.

Most of the requests submitted since July last year are, apparently, still being examined by Greek authorities, as is the case of three Turkish nationals (two academics and one civil engineer) who arrived on the island of Rhodes on August 22.

All three say they are connected to academic institutions belonging to self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of masterminding the coup attempt. All three have denied having anything to do with the coup.

As for the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece, they are still awaiting the outcome of their asylum requests, and are hoping they will have the same luck as four other Turkish servicemen in Norway, whose requests were accepted. The lawyer of the four, Kjell Brygfjeld, told Kathimerini in a Skype call that the four were living in Norway and have been working for NATO for at least two years.

“After the failed coup, they were asked to return to Turkey, but they refused, and in September they asked for asylum,” Brygfjeld said, adding that they had information that soldiers returning to Turkey were arrested at the airport and jailed. He also said they had legitimate fears they would be prosecuted if they returned.

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