Seventeen Turkish nationals, including six children, have requested asylum in Greece after crossing over from Turkey, Agence France-Presse (AFP) has reported on Tuesday, citing the Greek coastguard. The group, seven men, four women and six children, on Feb. 18 reached the small island group of Oinousses, opposite the ports of Çeşme and İzmir on the Aegean Coast, according to the report.
“They were picked up by a coastguard vessel and taken to the island of Chios for registration,” a coastguard spokeswoman said. Chios news portal Politischios said the asylum seekers were civil servants and judicial staff. It was assumed that the people are the alleged members of the Gülen movement who escaped from the persecution of massive post-coup witch hunt campaign conducted by the government of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Greece’s asylum service says more than 1,800 Turkish citizens requested sanctuary in 2017, a tenfold increase over the previous year. This places Greece in second place behind Germany as an EU destination of choice for Turks believed to be fleeing the sweeping measures following the controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Among those who have fled to Greece since 2016 are eight Turkish officers whom Ankara accuses of involvement in the coup attempt. To Turkey’s outrage, Greece’s Supreme Court has blocked the officers’ extradition, saying they would not have a fair trial in their home country.
The eight former Turkish officers are currently involved in a legal trial concerning their status in Greece. Although they have all applied for asylum, only one of them has been granted this status. However, this status has temporarily been revoked by the Greek authorities. The eight men, three majors, three captains and two sergeant majors, flew to Greece by helicopter on July 16 in 2016.
Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by Turkish government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016
Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others. On Feb 13, 2018 at least three people died and five others were missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape a post-coup crackdown in Turkey.
A Turkish teacher seeking asylum in Greece had claimed that Turkey has been cooperating with smugglers to hunt those fleeing the country. The teacher, identified as Hakan, told International Business Times UK (IBTimes UK) he is familiar with a Turkish military officer who offers money to round up the sympathisers of the Gülen movement escaping Turkey to Greece.
“They crossed the river near a military base where they knew a general resided who offered smugglers double if they handed over the members of the Gülen movement,” IBTimes UK said when narrating Hakan’s illegal departure from his home country.
IBTimes UK said in a recent article titled, “Erdoğan’s war on education: The exodus of Turkey’s teachers” that its reporters “travelled to Greece to meet dozens of Gülen followers, teachers and academics who were forced to flee after their government launched a war on education.”
NETHERLANDS ACCEPTS 73% OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS FROM TURKISH CITIZENS
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has approved of 73 percent of asylum applications filed by Turkish citizens in the country in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, according to Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
NOS based its story on data from the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security and said that there are many followers of the Gülen movement, around 500 people, among the Turkish citizens who applied for asylum in the Netherlands. NOS has also announced that 70 percent of Syrians who applied and 65 percent of Eritreans have been granted asylum in the country.
The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security has clarified that the Syrians and Eritreans whose asylum applications were rejected in the Netherlands came to the country via another EU country. A 2013 EU regulation known as the Dublin III Regulation requires asylum seekers to seek asylum in the first EU member state in which they arrive.
Moreover, according to data from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), 8,480 Turkish nationals claimed asylum in Germany in 2017, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported. DW also said the number of Turkish asylum seekers has been on the rise in 2018 as well, with 741 applications from Turkish citizens in the month of January. Turkey ranked fourth among countries that sent the highest number of refugees to Germany in January 2018.
389 TURKISH NATIONALS CLAIMED ASYLUM IN AUSTRALIA
Also, the Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has received 389 applications by Turkish nationals for protection since the attempted coup in 2016, according to media. The oceanic country’s leading newspaper, the Australian said Feb. 27 that the government has started approving protection visas for followers of the Gülen movement who have escaped Turkey since the summer of 2016.
“Australian supporters of Gülen and his Hizmet movement say there are 45 Turkish families who fled persecution by the Erdoğan regime after a failed 2016 coup and have applied for permanent asylum here as political refugees. It is understood that of those, three have been granted protection visas; a decision which enables them to legally stay in Australia while their claims are processed. The other cases are awaiting immigration decisions,” the newspaper said.
In total, 389 Turkish citizens have claimed asylum in Australia since the failed putsch, according to the newspaper’s sources at the responsible government agency. Among the Turkish refugee claimants in Australia is a 33-year-old businessman from İstanbul who fled Turkey along with his wife and daughter.
While Asım has managed to escape to Australia, the newspaper said his brother-in-law seeks refuge in Canada and his sister-in-law and mother-in-law had to escape to Kyrghzistan .
“People who are identified as members or sympathisers of the Gülen movement and the coup are arrested and detained without charges or rights to see lawyers. … These people are indefinitely detained without a trial and are denied food, water and medical treatment. Some have been beaten, tortured and raped,” Asım says.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”