Surge in people seeking British refuge in the second half of 2016, following the July coup attempt in Turkey
By Michael Daventry
Turkish citizens’ applications for asylum in the UK soared in the aftermath of last summer’s military coup attempt, new figures have revealed.
Quarterly immigration statistics released by the Office for National Statitiscs on Thursday revealed there had been more than a hundred applications by Turkish passport holders for asylum in the UK between October and December 2016 – the highest level in ten years.
In total 321 Turkish citizens – nearly a third more than the previous year – sought refuge in Britain in 2016, a difficult year for Turkey in which a military takeover was attempted in July.
The fact that more asylum applications were made in the second half of the year suggests they were filed by members of the network connected to Fethullah Gulen, a preacher based in the United States that Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup.
Immediately after the July coup the Turkish government launched a sweeping crackdown on suspected Gulen supporters in the country. Thousands of public employees, including teachers, police officers and judges, were sacked or jailed; others fled overseas to avoid being arrested.
Turkish passport holders’ asylum requests had been steadily falling since the turn of the century, when the number of annual applications were as high as 3,500.
But fewer citizens of Kurdish origin in particular sought refuge in Britain in the 2000s, as hopes rose of an end to the decades-long conflict in Turkey’s southeast. Only 18 Turkish citizens sought asylum in the UK in the first three months of 2010 – a remarkable drop the thousands of applications just nine years previously.
But the numbers began to creep up again as the Kurdish peace process began to falter, albeit counted in hundreds rather than thousands.
Record year for study
The figures also revealed there was a modest increase in the number of Turkish citizens applying for UK visas in 2016.
A record 119,535 people applied for visas throughout the year, up from 111,869 in 2015.
2016 was also a record year for Turkish citizens wanting to study in the UK. There were more than 14,000 applications for student visas, including an unprecedented 6,810 people applying for short-term study permits between April and June.
But family visa applications fell in 2016, with just 672 people applying to join a British spouse or parent in the UK. It is lowest number this century.