A state initial reception for asylum seekers in Karlsruhe. Photo: Uli Deck/dpa
The number of asylum seekers from Turkey has increased significantly since the failed coup in 2016. A likely reason is the actions of Turkish authorities against the PKK and the Gülen movement. The difficult economic situation could also have an impact.
Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016, the migration balance between Germany and Turkey has reversed again. Since 2006, more and more people had moved their center of life from Germany to Turkey every year, but the trend has since reversed. In the meantime, the number of asylum seekers from the country who make an initial application here is also increasing.
As the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) reported, more than 15,000 initial applications for asylum from Turkish nationals were recorded by the end of May this year alone. After a total of around 24,000 Turks applied for asylum in Germany last year, this indicates a further increase. This puts Turkey in third place among the countries of origin of asylum seekers, behind Syria and Afghanistan.
Türkiye increasingly targeted for terrorist activities
A possible factor for the development is the currently difficult economic situation in Turkey. The aftermath of the Ukraine war, ongoing tensions in the region and the devastating earthquakes have exacerbated them. Inflation is still clearly in the double-digit range, and government spending has recently increased significantly. Most recently, the re-elected government under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced painful reforms.
However, the fact that more Turks are applying for asylum in Germany also has something to do with the political situation in Turkey. During the 2010s, the country increasingly became a target of terrorist activities again. Terrorist militias such as the “Islamic State” (IS – known as “Daesh” in Turkey) or the PKK have carried out multiple attacks with numerous fatalities.
Between networking and infiltration
Then there was the failed coup of 2016. A group of military men tried to overthrow the Erdoğan government on the night of July 15 of that year. The putschists stole tanks and fighter jets, among other things, and attacked parliament. In the end, the government, with the active support of the population, managed to thwart the putsch. However, 249 people lost their lives during the fighting and more than 2,000 were injured.
The government has accused US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement (also known as the Gülen movement) of organizing the attempted coup. The Islamic-conservative but pro-Western oriented voluntary movement had expanded its influence in state institutions in the 1990s and 2000s. Gülen supporters played a key role in the judiciary, administration and education.
For a long time, the Gülen movement was seen as a pillar of political transformation in Turkey since the early 2000s. However, investigations into corruption surrounding the government in December 2013 led to a rift between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government and the more elite network. Erdoğan blamed the Gülen movement, the state to have purposefully infiltratedaiming to overthrow the elected government.
Türkiye accuses Gülen movement of targeted lobbying abroad
Turkey had already branded the Gülen movement a “Fetullahist terrorist organization” (FETÖ) in the mid-2010s and had taken action against its supporters. Unlike the PKK, it is not classified in this way anywhere in western countries. Rather, members of the Gülen network are also active in Germany, for example as entrepreneurs, in education or in pastoral care. In the United States, followers of the preacher operate numerous charter schools.
The Turkish government accuses Gülen supporters in western countries targeted lobbying to operate against the interests of Ankara and disinformation. That the pressure of persecution against the network contributes to the growth in the number of asylum seekers from Turkey German media also go out. Organizations like “Pro Asyl” to express on the other hand, that Germany is reluctant to grant political asylum because it belongs to the Gülen movement.
In Turkey itself, the government enacted a stricter law against disinformation in October last year. Anyone who spreads false information that is likely to disturb “internal peace” can be punished with imprisonment of up to three years. The main focus is on representations of security, public order or general health. Critics sense a basis for criminalizing opposition forces and attribute the increase in the number of Turkish asylum seekers in Germany to this law. However, similar laws are being planned in the EU.
HDP threaten closure and political ban for hundreds of politicians
Another possible explanation for the increase in the number of asylum seekers from Turkey is the closure of the “People’s Democratic Party” (HDP). This finds its electorate above all in the Kurdish areas and in the metropolitan intellectuals. In the parliamentary elections in May, its members ran on the Greens list.
In Turkey, the HDP is suspected of being political arm of the terrorist PKK to act. In numerous communities, the activities of the HDP and the mayors are said to be controlled directly by the PKK. Among other things, the PKK is supposed to decide on lists of candidates or instrumentalize the administration for its own purposes. In many cases, the Turkish government has dismissed mayors or other top officials in the regions concerned.
In addition to the possible closure of the party, 678 of its politicians are threatened with an activity ban for a period of up to five years.