Dozens of Turkish teachers in Pakistan under UN protection after visa extensions turned down

Turkish employees of the Pak-Turk Schools, along with their families, have been in the United Nations’ (UN) protection after Pakistani authorities denied them an extension in their visas to work in the country, DawnNews reported.

Documents available with DawnNews reveal that the 108 Turkish teachers, who have worked for the Pak-Turk schools, which used to be administered by a foundation affiliated with Gülen movement, had requested the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, that they be resettled in a country other than Turkey after Pakistan ordered to deport them. The teachers had told UNHCR they feared arrest, coercion and torture by the Erdogan government in case of the Pakistani government forcibly deported them to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had asked Pakistan to close the institutions in August 2016. In the second week of the same month, the management of the chain removed the Turkish principals of 28 Pak-Turk schools and colleges and also dissolved the board of directors which had representation from Turkish nationals. When the Turkish faculty’s visas expired in September 2016, the Pakistani government said it would not extend them.

The Interior Ministry also rejected an application filed by schools’ Turkish staff pleading for an extension in their visas, asking all affected individuals to leave the country by November 20. The decision was announced two days before Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Pakistan in November last year. However, the Sindh High Court later suspended the deportation order; the high courts of KP, Punjab and Balochistan had followed suit.

A spokesman for the UNHCR confirmed that the applicants will stay in UN protection until November 2017 and that efforts are underway to resettle them in another country.

“We are extremely concerned about our families in Pakistan. We applied for asylum because the Pakistani government can hand us over to the Erdoğan administration anytime. We are now under UN protection,” one of the applicants told DawnNews on Saturday.

He said that because he can no longer work in Pakistan, he had to sell household items to feed his family. “I fear starvation here and persecution in Turkey. My destination has to be a country other than Turkey,” he said.

Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect. The movement has also categorically denied any involvement into coup attempt.

Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.  89,775 people were being held without charge, with an additional 43,885 in pre-trial detention as of Feb. 1 due to their alleged links to the movement.

Feb. 13, 2017

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