Eight Turkish citizens who fled their homeland in a small sailboat have sought political asylum in Greece, Greek media reported.
The boat was traveling to France before its engine broke down, leaving them stranded off Crete. A fishing boat towed them to the port of Tsoutsouras, on the southern coast of Iraklio, according to reports.
The group includes military officers, but it is unknown if they are active duty or separated from the service.
A total of 19,653 Turkish citizens have fled to neighboring Greece since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to the 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 the Turkish nationals who fled to Greece have moved on to other European countries.
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, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.
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.
Turkish 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 coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Most recently pro-Erdoğan propagandist Fatih Tezcan said on a live YouTube broadcast that members of the Gülen movement should be immediately massacred and that “it would be a waste” to use rat poison to kill them.
Tezcan was defending supporters of Turkish President Erdoğan who discussed on Clubhouse how to exterminate alleged followers of the Gülen movement currently in Turkish prisons.