Turkish asylum requests in Germany more than double this year


Berlin (AFP)

More than 4,400 Turkish citizens have applied for asylum in Germany this year, the government said on Friday, with numbers soaring since a failed coup attempt against Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Among them are several Turkish military officers stationed at Germany's Ramstein NATO air base, national news agency DPA has reported.

Berlin-Ankara relations have been badly strained by concerns over the Erdogan government's stance on civil rights, especially its sweeping crackdown against opposition lawmakers, journalists and other critical voices in the wake of the July coup attempt.

On Friday, Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees said that this year it had received 4,437 political asylum requests to the end of October from Turks, compared to 1,767 during all of last year.

Numbers had steadily climbed from 275 in July to 485 in October, it said, cautioning however that the rise could not be tied directly to the coup attempt, given the long time lags for asylum applications.

German conservative lawmaker Stephan Mayer, who sits on parliament's interior affairs committee, said: "We must presume that the number of Turks who will request political asylum in Germany will rise further."

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had said last week Berlin wants to "help persecuted scientists, cultural workers, journalists, who can no longer work in Turkey, come to Germany to work".

Erdogan, for his part, has accused Germany of harbouring thousands of Kurdish militants and failing to respond to its requests to extradite terror suspects of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

"We gave them 4,500 files. Six of them were looked at," Erdogan said before leaving on a foreign trip on Friday. "Germany is not keeping an eye on this well.

"Terror will return like a boomerang tomorrow and hit Germany. Germany is playing this wrong. The West has become a sanctuary for terror. You say the PKK is a terror group and then support them. What kind of friendship and honesty is this?"

- 'Get rid of opposition' -

Mayer, of the conservative Bavarian CSU party, was critical of the foreign ministry for stating that Germany was open to granting refuge to Turkish citizens who need it.

"We don't solve Turkey's problems by inviting all citizens who are critical of the regime to request asylum here," he told the Funke media group.

"That's not a favour we should do for President Erdogan. Because that's exactly what he wants -- to get rid of the opposition."

Developments in Turkey have a strong resonance in Germany, home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 70s.

Turkey declared a state of emergency following the July 15 failed coup, arresting tens of thousands in a crackdown which critics say has gone well beyond the alleged plotters to include anyone daring to criticise Erdogan.

EU and US officials have expressed concern over the arrests of opposition lawmakers and journalists as fears grow over Turkey's use of emergency laws.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Friday that a number of Turkish officers posted to the alliance had asked for asylum in the member countries where they serve amid the post-coup crackdown at home.