Berlin defies Ankara and grants Turkish soldiers asylum

Turkish riot police guard as supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shout slogans against the Netherlands in front of the Dutch consulate. Istanbul, 12 March. [Cem Turkel/ EPA]

More than 400 Turkish state officials are seeking asylum in Germany. Despite Ankara insisting these applications be denied, Berlin has granted protection to military personnel in a number of cases. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Ankara’s position is clear: Defence Minister Fikri Isik told Germany in January to reject any asylum applications from Turkish soldiers. He added that if the German authorities did grant those requests, there would be “very serious consequences”.

Berlin has ignored that threat to some extent though and some Turkish soldiers have indeed been given asylum. It is a decision that has worsened the already strained German-Turkish relationship.

Germany’s interior ministry confirmed that “in some cases, asylum cases for Turkish diplomatic passport holders have been resolved positively”. The ministry declined to provide exact numbers or further details on individual cases, citing data protection concerns.

According to reports by Süddeutscher Zeitung, NDR and WDR, the people granted asylum are former Turkish soldiers that were stationed in Germany before their discharge from the army.

“Asylum procedures are considered on a case-by-case basis and according to individual protection criteria,” an interior ministry spokesperson said. Despite decision being made on an individual basis, it is a political issue for Germany if it grants asylum to Turkish soldiers that have faced political persecution in their homeland.

The ministry spokesperson added that any decisions would have taken and will take into account the consequences of last year’s failed coup, particularly the effects felt by the political opposition.

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Ankara has cracked down massively on those that it believes were responsible for last July’s attempted putsch and who are allegedly supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly accused Gülen of being the mastermind behind the attempt, claiming that he infiltrated the army, judiciary and state apparatus with his own people.

Thousands of soldiers, judges and police officers were arrested in the wake of the coup attempt and tens of thousands of state officials have been dismissed.

More than 400 of the latter are seeking asylum in Germany. At the beginning of May, 209 people with diplomatic passports and 205 service passport holders had filed asylum requests with Germany’s migration authority (BAMF), according to the interior ministry.

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But it added that the statistics should not be taken at face value, given that embassy staff, judges, officials and soldiers could belong to either group, and that family members could also distort the numbers.

The total number of asylum seekers from Turkey, in general, has risen. In the first four months of the year, 2,130 Turkish nationals filed applications. For the entire year of 2016, 5,742 requests were made.

The chances of asylum seekers being successful in their application are also greater. While the so-called protection rate in 2016 was only 8%, it is 17.8% so far this year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (9 May) also revealed that Germany would not allow its Turkish population to vote in any referendum that proposes reinstating the death penalty.

The Bundesrepublik allowed Turks living in Germany to vote in a referendum last month on granting Erdoğan a host of new powers and to shift its political model from a parliamentary one to a presidential one.

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