Thousands of Turkish citizens seek asylum in US through Mexico: report

A US Border Patrol agent (L) leads migrants who crossed into the US from Mexico to a van for transportation in El Paso, Texas, on December 21, 2022. (Photo by Allison Dinner / AFP)

Some 33,000 Turkish citizens fleeing Turkey have entered the United States via the Mexican border over the past 18 months and are trying to build a new life amid difficult circumstances, Turkish Minute reported, citing Voice of America (VOA) Turkish service.

Among the Turkish asylum seekers are people from all walks of life. They are detained by US border patrol agents upon their entry to the United States and then are taken to detention centers in Arizona and Texas. Following the completion of “legal procedures,” the asylum seekers appear in court, the earliest in a week but possibly in months, following which they are either released from detention or sent back to their homeland, according to VOA Turkish.

The asylum seekers who have been released are reportedly sent to New York City in buses from Arizona and Texas where their need for food and shelter are met by the city. The asylum seekers, whose number exceeds 100,000, find themselves in dire circumstances in the homeless shelters and other places they have been assigned to.

Hundreds of Turkish citizens have to live in the shelters provided by New York City, where a Turkish asylum seeker was killed in a car accident last week.

It was Abdülhekim Eşiyok, who used to live in one of the homeless shelters in New York, who was killed in New York last week in a car accident.

Eşiyok, from the eastern Turkish province of Ağrı, had entered the United States through Mexico in early 2023. He used to live in one of the homeless shelters provided by New York City after he was released from detention.

Eşiyok was critically injured when he was hit by a drunk driver in the vicinity of Gramercy Park. Four others were also injured in the accident. Eşiyok succumbed to his injuries at Bellevue Hospital.

As part of a GoFundMe donation campaign launched to finance the transfer of his body to Turkey, a total of $24,295 has been collected, more than the $8,000 necessary for the transfer.

Ahmet Dönmez, an imam from the US Chaplain Corps, told VOA that that there was great interest in the donation campaign for Eşiyok not only from Turkish citizens in the US but also from Americans. He said the remaining donations will be sent to Eşiyok’s family in Turkey.

Dönmez said there are thousands of Turkish asylum seekers in New York who are trying to survive under harsh circumstances.

According to the chaplain, the number of Turks seeking to enter the United States through Mexico could increase further, but he warned against the risks of illegal travel, saying that they could drown while trying to flee Turkey or end up in the hands of drug traffickers or human smugglers.

Dönmez said it is not worth it to take such big risks.

Migration from Turkey to Europe and other Western countries has intensified since 2016 due to the Turkish government’s purge of political opponents in the wake of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Most of the Turks seeking asylum in Western countries are reportedly sympathizers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Thousands of people fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against alleged members of the Gülen movement after the coup attempt. Many have tried to leave Turkey illegally since the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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