ANKARA, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The number of Turkish citizens seeking asylum in European Union countries have significantly increased in the past two years, exceeding 17,000 pending applicants so far this year, a Turkish official told Xinhua.
Turks ranked the fifth largest group among asylum applications to the EU member states in 2018.
Majority of these applicants are believed to be linked to Gulen Movement, supporting fugitive preacher Fethullah Gulen who is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup, the official said on anonymity.
The official added that in 2016, there were almost none asylum applications from Turkey to the EU member states.
In October, more than half of the applications were lodged by citizens from ten countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Albania, Venezuela, Nigeria and Georgia, according to figures of European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
There are a total of 17, 332 pending cases of Turkish nationals by the end of October this year, according to the figures.
Turkish applications were made mainly in Germany, followed by Greece, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium.
Germany accepted asylum claims from former high-ranking Turkish generals, who were also former NATO officials at a military base in Germany. Turkey claimed that these generals had a direct link to the Gulen Movement.
A number of Turkish military personnel based in various NATO bodies across Europe have sought asylum from their countries of residence after the coup attempt over concerns that they would be subject to prosecution on charges of being a member of Gulen Movement.
The Gulen network is labeled as Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO) by Ankara.
Almost 6,000 Turks applied to Greece for asylum. Eight former Turkish soldiers, three majors, three captains and two sergeant majors flew to Greece by helicopter on July 16, 2016 as the coup attempt crumbled.
Ankara says the eight soldiers were members of the Gulen movement. Greece granted asylum to three of them.
Members of the Turkish military alleged to have ties with the group launched a coup attempt in 2016 that resulted in the deaths of 250 people.
Following the coup attempt, Turkish authorities have started a massive purge, dismissing around 150,000 civil servants and jailing more than 50,000 people over their alleged links to U.S.-based Gulen. Gulen denies any role in the 2016 coup.
Turkey declared "state of emergency" after the coup for almost two years which paved the way for detaining and prosecuting alleged coup supporters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan often accuses European countries of providing shelter to "terrorists and tolerating terrorist activities" in their territories instead of combating them.
The issue of asylum seekers from EU member states become a source of tension between Ankara and several European capitals.
"What we have gone through over the past five years has openly and clearly shown to our friends as well as to us that it is imperative for us not to stay late in the fight against FETO," the president said in September.