Austria threatens crackdown on illegal dual citizenship holders after Turkey vote

Protestors make their way and hold sheets reading 'Free Deniz' during a motorcade on the occasion of the solidarity for the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel in Vienna, Austria, 28 February 2017. [Lisi Niesner/ EPA]

Over 100,000 eligible-to-vote Turks live in Austria. It is estimated 10% of those hold illegal dual citizenship. Austria’s interior minister wants to take action against this following Sunday’s (16 April) Turkish referendum. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Dual citizenship is a tricky subject in Austria. It is largely illegal and is only permitted in special situations (like if you are Arnold Schwarzenegger).

But its Turkish population has reportedly been registering in both their country of homeland and their new adopted country.

Official Austrian figures state that 273,000 people with Turkish roots live in the alpine republic and that around two-thirds of those hold Austrian citizenship. How many of those hold a Turkish passport as well is unclear. But estimates put the number at around 10,000.

The country’s politicians are now reacting to Sunday’s referendum and the fact that over 73% of Austria-based voters supported the push for constitutional change.

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Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) has proposed tackling the problem of illegal dual citizenship. His proposal includes making it an administrative offence and introducing fines and sanctions against those found to be breaking the rules.

Sobotka explained that “we can no longer accept that some people blatantly disregard our rules and illegally hold two citizenships”.

If found to be holding dual citizenship illegally, then offenders would be stripped of their Austrian citizenship as well as incurring a €5,000 fine. Sobotka hopes that these punishments will act as a deterrent. But SPÖ leader Andreas Schieder said that tightening the rules on citizenship isn’t necessary.

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The interior minister also wants better data exchange between Ankara and Vienna. Given the cool relations between the two capitals at the moment, it is doubtful if better cooperation will be established anytime soon.

Austrian Greens MP Peter Pilz had some harsh words about the Turkish vote. In a newspaper interview, he claimed there was “clear vote rigging and election fraud in the heart of Vienna”.

Pilz also said that Erdoğan’s supporters had been bussed en masse into polling stations in Vienna, Salzburg and Bregenz. He also said that anti-Erdoğan voters had been intimidated, monitored and tracked ahead of the referendum.

As a result, a majority of eligible voters did not take part (turnout was just 48%) because of “spying by the Erdoğan-Stasi, which has openly operated in Austria and Germany for years”.

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