19,653 Turkish citizens have fled to Greece since coup attempt in 2016: report

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A total of 19,653 Turkish citizens have fled to neighboring Greece since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to a report by the Hürriyet daily, citing Greek asylum authorities.

Nine thousand Turkish citizens have sought asylum in Greece in four-and-a-half years, with 2,000 of them receiving refugee status. More than half of the Turkish nationals who fled to Greece have moved on to other European countries, Hürriyet reported.

Migration from Turkey to Greece has intensified since 2016 due to the Turkish government’s purge of political opponents in the wake of the coup attempt. Most of the Turks seeking asylum in Greece are reportedly sympathizers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against alleged members of the Gülen movement after the coup attempt. Many have tried to illegally flee Turkey as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

According to the European Asylum Support Office, 15.834 Turkish nationals lodged applications for international protection in EU member states in 2020 despite emergency measures and movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the attempted coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016, the number of asylum applications lodged by Turkish citizens in Germany has increased significantly. In 2019 Turkish asylum seekers were the third most registered group, after Syrians and Iraqis, according to the country’s agency for migration and refugees (BAMF).

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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