Asylum applications to Europe have skyrocketed, says head of EU Delegation to Turkey

The head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey has said EU countries were becoming increasingly stringent in assessing visa applications from Turkey since the number of asylum applications has skyrocketed.

Speaking to journalist Ismail Saymaz from the Sözcü daily, Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut said many applications from Turkey for visas to European counties from Turkey were denied because even university students were applying for asylum after their studies ended. 

“Even students who arrived in Europe under the European Union’s Erasmus exchange program are applying for asylum after their studies have ended,” he said. “The possibility of those people who have come to Europe on a Schengen visa staying permanently is very high.”

In recent months news that European countries are rejecting visa applications from Turkey has been widely circulating. Many people have complained that although they meet the criteria, they were not successful in obtaining a visa. In the first six months of 2023 more than 50 percent of Schengen visa applications have reportedly resulted in declinations. 

According to Meyer-Landrut the number of rejections dropped last year, but Turkey had the highest number of visa applications to Europe and the numbers were growing exponentially. In 2022 more than 778.000 applications were received from Turkey. 

“I cannot comment on the visa policies of each country, but what I can say is that migrants in Turkey applying for a Schengen visa are more frequently rejected than Turkish citizens,” he said. “That said, none of the European countries has an official policy to reject visa applications from Turkey.”

Meyer-Landrut added that Turks were the third largest group to apply for asylum in Europe after Syrians and Afghans. Countries take this into consideration when they are handling visa applications. The economic crisis in Turkey has also contributed to the high number of rejections.

“We are aware of the economic problems in Turkey, and this is a major factor in why people want to outstay their visas in Europe,” said Meyer-Landrut. 

He admitted that the Turkish government’s policies and definition of terrorism was a main factor in the visa problem. The government’s definition of terrorism was very ambiguous and broad; therefore, many people who do not feel safe feel compelled to leave the country for a better life. “We cannot grant a visa to everyone who wants to leave the country because they don’t feel safe and free in Turkey,” he explained. “The rule of law, democracy and human rights are a huge problem, and the more people feel oppressed, the more they want to leave.”

Last year the Turkish Ministry of Education said students and some teachers enrolled in exchange programs were quitting mid-program and were looking for ways to permanently stay in European countries.

Nearly 20,000 students in Turkey enroll in the Erasmus program each year. According to the program parameters, they can only stay in Europe for a year, after which they must return to Turkey. However, in the last 15 years more than 500,000 students have applied for asylum.

The overall number of Turkish nationals filing for asylum increased by 145 percent in 2022, with 49,720 Turks seeking shelter in Europe. 

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government since a coup attempt in July 2016. Many have tried to flee illegally as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

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