Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), a Virginia based Human Rights Organization released a full report which examined the perceptions of four countries, namely the Kingdom of Norway, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, towards asylum applications coming from Turkish applicants with links (or alleged links) to the Gulen Movement.
The report which was released on Monday aims to shed light on the current situation of Turkish asylum seekers who have fled from human rights violations and different types of persecution perpetrated by the Turkish government. ‘In addition, the report aims to provide more information and guidance for decision makers to understand why the Gulen Movement’s supporters are applying for asylum and seek protection.’ The research noted.
Asylum cases in Norway
Following the worrying series of events since 2013 in Turkey, especially after the so-called attempted coup, Turkish people having alleged links with the Gulen Movement have started to apply for asylum in different countries including Norway. The report states that Norway has examined many cases coming from applicants with alike backgrounds and the number is expected to increase because of the worsening situation in Turkey. For this reason, on October 12, 2017 the Ministry of Justice and Public Security has published instructions aiming to provide guidelines regarding the cases of Movement’s supporters. ‘The instructions start with a background information that acts of the Turkish government have created a new group of asylum seekers who, if they return to their home country of Turkey, might face risks of “arrest, imprisonment, torture and conviction.’ The report added.
According to the report, the Ministry also emphasized that the majority of the applicants are well-educated people having professional relations with the Gulen schools and colleges who could provide both identifying and other documents proving their links with the Movement. Taking into account these, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration proposed as regards the applicants with strong indications of involvement with the Movement to be entitled protection under the Immigration Act §28.
The Asylum Cases in Canada
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has examined many cases from Turkish applicants with Gulenist links. According to the latest statistics by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the Refugee Protection Division has received 1665 applications in 2017 (till September), 895 of which have been accepted so far whereas only 121 were rejected, most of the rest are pending and expected to result positively. The report reveals that the number of received applications in 2016 was 1103, 398 accepted 67 rejected rest is pending. Applications in 2017 as of September quintupled the number in 2015 (which was 295 in total, 104 accepted and 51 rejected) and the number is expected to grow as the time goes. Lorne Waldman, an immigration lawyer from Toronto who has handled almost 20 relevant cases, stated that “Not one has been refused” and added, “The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada takes it as a given that Turks affiliated with Gulen will be at risk if they return to Turkey.”
Asylum Cases in the U.K
Even though the UK’s remarkable respect for human rights, the country does not seem to be very welcoming towards refugees that the asylum system is very complex and tough according to experts.
In the light of information provided in the report, however, it can be concluded that asylum claims of the Gulen supporters are likely to be accepted by the UK. It is noteworthy that the report reminds decisions makers of exclusion clauses as well meaning that if an asylum seeker has been involved in any crime especially the attempted coup itself, it will not be contrary to the 1951 Refugee Convention to refuse the application. Last but not least, it is crucial to realize it is the applicant’s responsibility to prove what would s/he face (and whether it amounts to persecution due to political opinion) in case of return.
The Asylum cases in the U.S
Though the US’ asylum procedure is quite long and that many applicants still wait to be heard before a judge, the report suggests that there have been cases where the applicant was heard and granted asylum. ‘For instance, an immigration court in New Jersey decided to grant asylum to the applicant after the respondent illustrated in detail why and how would he be at risk if he returns to Turkey. The judge specified the respondent’s testimony credible since he presented his story in great detail without any contradiction. The court was satisfied that the respondent’s case constituted “well-founded fear of future persecution on account of imputed political opinion.” Here, the court made a comparison with individuals “similarly situated to him” and concluded that the respondent’s fear is ‘objectively reasonable’. Finally, the court used its discretionary power in his favor because he has no records of criminal activities. This decision is one of the very first affirmative decisions by US courts regarding Gulen-related cases and number of such decisions is expected to rise as the applicants start to stand before the judge.’
Having in regard all these, the Advocates of Silenced Turkey recommend decision makers and authorities who receive applications from Turkish asylum seekers to take into account the severity of the situation and the possible acts of the Turkish government when they return, which are explained above. ‘Current situation in Turkey is quite worrying that many people have been trying to escape leaving everything behind, and thus asylum would be their only option to live freely in a safe country. We are urging any government concerned with human rights and fundamental freedoms to consider the significance of the asylum claims for those people as well as their families and lives.’ The report concluded.
The Advocates of Silenced Turkey is a Virginia based Human Rights Organization which aims to address all human rights violations in Turkey regarding civil, political, economic, social and cultural as contained in the basic human rights documents.