Spotlight: Thousands of Turks seek political asylum in Germany amid domestic turmoil

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-14 19:26:01|Editor: Zhang Dongmiao
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by Moritz Rommerskirchen

BERLIN, July 14 (Xinhua) -- More than 3,000 Turkish citizens, including 209 diplomats and 205 state employees, have applied for asylum in Germany in the first half of this year, the Funke media group reported on Friday citing information obtained from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

However, the most recent month of June defied the larger trend with only 488 applications, the same figure as recorded in June 2016, and may thus point towards a gradual normalization.

The number of Turkish asylum seekers in Germany has risen dramatically since the failure of a military coup in July 2016. In total, 5,742 applications were filed in 2016, a 324 percent increase compared to the 1,767 applications in the previous year.

In 2016, around 4,400 Turkish Kurds accounted for the bulk of asylum seekers. Eight percent of refugees from Turkey were granted asylum in Germany that year. According to the local media report, authorities expect this figure to rise significantly this year.

Turkey has experienced a year of political turmoil following an failed coup in 2016. Ankara blames the followers of U.S. based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen for the attempt to overthrow the government and has fired or suspended more than 130,000 civil servants who supposedly sympathize with Gulen's cause.

Bruno Kahl, head of Germany's foreign intelligence service, told German media that Berlin remained unconvinced that there were ties between Gulen and the military coup.

Turkish-German relations have been severely strained since the event.

Ankara has rejected criticism by German policymakers that it engaged in an excessive crackdown on political opponents in response to the coup and is resentful towards its NATO partner Germany for allegedly granting asylum to Turkish revolutionaries.

There is also a long-growing spat between Berlin and Ankara over attempts to prevent Turkish politicians from holding campaign rallies in Europe. Hoping to win support amongst Turkish migrant communities for a controversial constitutional referendum which ultimately passed in April this year, Erdogan and members of his AKP party ran up against heavy opposition in several European capitals.

While a German provincial high court ruled in 2016 that the German Federal Government could prevent such appearances, Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to impose a general ban on speeches by Turkish politicians ahead of the constitutional referendum. Instead she left the decision to municipalities.

In Hamburg, AKP politician and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was forced to give his speech from the balcony of the Turkish consulate after city authorities ruled out an appearance in an events hall on the grounds of fire safety.

Turkey retaliated by banning German parliamentarians from visiting German armed forces stationed at the Turkish air-force base of Incirlik. In June, German lawmakers voted to transfer the troops to a new base in Jordan after several diplomatic attempts to defuse the crisis failed.

Tensions were still brewing earlier this month during the Group of 20 summit when Erdogan was prevented by the German government from holding a public speech to his supporters in Hamburg.

German business leaders are concerned that Turkey's tumultuous political situation at home and worsening relations with its European partners have dampened the country's growth prospects.

For Dieter Kempf, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), "The situation in Turkey remains a matter of concern." Firms had cut back on investment since the failed coup which could not be "in the interest of the Turkish government."

The prevailing uncertainty was damaging to business and Turkey cannot return to growth without its economic partners in the European Union, Kempf warned.