Germany’s Left Party calls for simplified visa procedures for gov’t opponents from Turkey

German Left Party co-Chairman Martin Schirdewan

Co-chairperson of Germany’s Left Party Martin Schirdewan has called on the government to make visa application procedures easier for government opponents in Turkey since many people are considering leaving the country in the wake of yet another election victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported, citing a statement from the party.

Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 and a runoff on May 28. Erdoğan, who has been ruling Turkey for two decades, secured yet another five-year term in office, while his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the majority of seats in parliament.

The election results came as a shock to his opponents due to the prevailing belief that Erdoğan was losing popularity because of high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis as well as the government’s poor response to two powerful earthquakes that hit the country in February.

Schirdewan said in a statement published on his party’s website on Tuesday that the elections in Turkey “were not free” and served purely to secure power for Erdoğan and gain respect for him internationally.

Describing the election result as “a political catastrophe,” Schirdewan said the German federal government should now offer a quick and unbureaucratic admission of political refugees from Turkey and a simplification of the visa system.

He recalled that the German government tried to make visa application easier for the victims of two powerful earthquakes in Turkey in February who wanted to visit their relatives in Germany but that it turned out to be a “bureaucratic tragedy” and almost impossible to implement due to the many obstacles, such as a huge catalog of required documents that could not be gathered so quickly and with the destruction.

Schirdewan said with Erdoğan’s re-election and the expansion of his power apparatus, people will inevitably have to flee for political reasons and that the German government can show it has learned from the mistakes made following the earthquakes.

“Even with the political catastrophe, members of the opposition, students, journalists and everyone else who has to flee for political reasons needs quick and unbureaucratic admission and a simplification of the visa system. This would be a practical sign of solidarity and at the same time a message to Erdoğan,” said Schirdewan.

An increasing number of Turks have been leaving Turkey and finding refuge in Europe, the US or Canada by getting residence permits either through asylum applications or finding jobs or studying since they see no future for themselves in Turkey or seek to avoid imprisonment for political reasons.

According to data released by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) in February, Turkish citizens filed a total of 55,000 asylum applications in EU countries, Switzerland and Norway in 2022, making Turks the third largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians and Afghans.

The large number of people fleeing Turkey and seeking asylum in Europe is seen by many as a result of declining Turkish democracy.

Thousands of people had to flee Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016, following which Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) launched a widespread crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. These people, some of whom had to flee the country illegally by way of the Aegean Sea or Evros River land border because their passports had been canceled under state of emergency measures taken by the government, applied for asylum in Europe and other countries.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan in a speech on Tuesday labeled a recent increase in the rate of rejection of Schengen visa applications submitted by Turkish citizens a form of “political blackmail” and vowed to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

According to a special report by Ekonomim, a Turkish economic news outlet, Turkey has the second-highest number of Schengen visa applications after Russia. Still, the rejection rate of applications by its citizens is almost five times higher than Russia’s. According to the report, Turkey is the country with the highest rejection rate among the top five countries in the number of Schengen visa applications, namely, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Ukraine, the citizens of which have submitted the most applications in the last eight years.

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