European countries ease visa process for Türkiye quake victims

Mon, 13 Feb 2023 10:25 GMT
Türkiye has long complained about a slowdown in the visa process for its citizens traveling to Europe and other countries, particularly Germany.
European countries ease visa process for Türkiye quake victims

Türkiye has long complained about a slowdown in the visa process for its citizens traveling to Europe and other countries, particularly Germany. But last Monday's earthquakes that struck the country and neighboring Syria appear to have turned the tide, at least for victims of the disaster.

Some European countries have decided to ease visa procedures for victims to be hosted by relatives living across Europe. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have all taken action to facilitate visa applications of Turkish and Syrian citizens residing in their countries so that they can temporarily host their relatives.

In a statement, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration said that people whose houses were destroyed in the quakes should apply for emergency medical support to benefit from an accelerated visa process. It noted that those victims can get a "rapid pass" form from the Swiss Consulate General in Istanbul, but added visa processes will still be done by Schengen policy. So far 603 visa applications have been made along these lines, added the secretariat.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands said that the Dutch government would provide "priority visa appointments" to those who seek to travel to their relatives in the Netherlands from Türkiye. Spouses and relatives of Dutch nationals who apply for a temporary visa to the Netherlands can get a priority visa appointment from the intermediary institution by sending their phone numbers to the Foreign Ministry through the mail.

Nicole de Moor, Belgium's minister for asylum and migration, said that many Belgians would like to help their relatives in Türkiye and temporarily take care of them at home. "I have instructed the Immigration Office to speed up the visa application procedure," she said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, a petition drive has been launched in the United Kingdom urging the government to issue special visas to Turkish earthquake victims who have relatives in the country. So far, more than 68,000 people have signed the petition.

Germany is also planning to allow quake-hit victims in Türkiye and Syria to stay temporarily with relatives in Germany. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that the process would be done as part of regular visas but would be completed swiftly.

According to the latest figures, the temblors caused widespread damage and killed over 29,000 people in Türkiye’s south and southeast.

In an intensifying effect since last year, Turkish citizens have been subject to many hurdles in obtaining visas from the European Union and the United States, including increased scrutiny and monthslong waits even to grab an appointment from embassies. "It is understandable when applications without proper paperwork or applications that do not meet the requirements are rejected but we are seeing even the applications fulfilling all the criteria are rejected," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in August 2022 as he vowed Ankara would take extra steps to address the issue. After a Turkish lawmaker filed a report titled "Misuse of the Schengen Information System as a Politically Driven Sanction by Member States of the Council of Europe" highlighting the "unnecessary and large amount of paperwork" required for visas, as well as high fees and the requirement that applications be submitted in person, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) approved a resolution calling for European states to avoid abusing the Schengen Information System (SIS). The answer said that although it was the right of states to decide who to allow into the country, they should also respect the rights of third-country nationals trying to enter the Schengen Area, “in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.” In November, Çavuşoğlu announced that all ambassadors had been summoned to the ministry, and “the necessary warnings were made.” Nevertheless, the difficulties plaguing visa procedures for many Turks remain in place.


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