ATHENS – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s purge of the military and civil society in the wake of a failed 2016 coup attempt has seen 7,137 Turks fleeing to Greece and seeking asylum, many of them professionals.
Data from Greece’s asylum service, already overwhelmed trying to handle applications from most of the more than 64,000 refugees and migrants being housed in detention centers and camps on Aegean islands and the mainland showed that 186 Turks filed for asylum in 2016, 1,826 in 2017, 4,834 in 2018 and 288 in January 2019, said Kathimerini.
That was a record number of applications and an astronomical jump from 2013-15 when only 100 asylum requests from Turkish nationals were filed, the report added. There was no information on how many have been granted beyond the first approval on July, 21, 2017 to a 25-year-old Turkish citizen.
The majority of those fleeing Turkey are civil servants or teachers linked to academic institutions belonging to self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania, who Erdogan accused of being behind the attempt to bring down his government and assassinate him.
After the summer of 2016, Greek authorities had focused their attention to the eastern Aegean where they expected most Turkish arrivals to arrive and the favored route by migrants and refugees who first went to Turkey as a jumping-off point to get to Greece in hopes of reaching other more prosperous European countries before the borders were closed to them.
Most Turks, however, are said to be using the northeastern land border with Greece in an area near the perilous Evros River where a number of refugees and migrants, including women and children, have drowned trying to get into Greece.
Most of those who manage to enter the country head to Athens or Thessaloniki where unofficial support networks have been established by fellow Turks, the paper said.