Turkish Migration Management reopens Syrians terminated naturalization files
Eanb Baladi – Diya Assi
Many Syrians whose naturalization files were removed received letters from the Directorate General of Migration Management inviting them to come to review their files during the last two months of 2022, coinciding with the approaching Turkish presidential elections.
According to what Enab Baladi monitored on Facebook groups for services and consultations for Syrians, there have been many inquiries about the content of a message sent by the Directorate General of Migration Management in different states.
The message stated that the review is only according to specific places within the Directorate’s buildings. Those who obtained it stated that they were given a choice between completing or dispensing with their files, in return for choosing a resettlement program in third countries, according to some of them.
Why resume the naturalization file?
The naturalization files that were removed for reasons that were not “real” as their owners claim, in addition to the fact that the criteria for selecting candidates for them are not clear, were and still are creating a state of confusion among the Syrian community with every political event in Turkey.
Rizan Aslan, a young man residing in Istanbul, was one of the people whose files were removed in the last removal campaign in May 2022 after waiting for more than three years in the naturalization stages.
In December 2022, Aslan received a message from Migration Management to submit an objection, according to what he told Enab Baladi, while others were invited to agree to re-evaluate and complete the file.
The Syrian human rights activist and director of the Justice for Refugees Rights center (Adalet Mülteci Hakları) in Istanbul, Ahmet Katie, told Enab Baladi via an email that the return of the removed nationality files is a response to human rights and media pressures.
According to Katie, naturalization is used as a pressure file in the presence of international demands for resettlement within Turkey, “which the latter agreed with the European Union in exchange for providing financial support.”
However, this file has been in a state of stagnation for some time, and when each of the two parties exerts pressure to move the naturalization and resettlement file forward, each of them tries to prove its good intentions gradually,” which justifies the recent activity in the process of reviewing the removed files, according to the human rights activist.
The removal campaigns, which began before the Turkish municipal elections in 2019, ended in May 2022 with allegations of removing 15,000 naturalization files, which was denied by the Directorate General of Civil Registration and Citizenship Affairs. Still, the reasons for the removal remain vague.
However, the Directorate of Citizenship Affairs confirmed that national security, public order, and non-terrorism are among the issues that are taken into account at every stage of the procedures that threaten to remove the naturalization file, even after obtaining citizenship.
Files within files
The nationality file has always been a subject of struggle for Turkish political parties. When the opposition puts pressure on the government led by the Justice and Development party, the architect of the refugee crisis, according to the opposition, some Syrians lose their file in order to balance the engineering process.
Taha al-Ghazi, a human rights activist specializing in Syrian refugee issues, told Enab Baladi that the noticeable activity in reactivating naturalization files is not directly related to the upcoming electoral period, considering that this is a response to previous legal cases filed by the owners of the removed files.
Al-Ghazi attributed this response to the large number of people who filed lawsuits, which forced the administrative courts to issue a decision to review people’s eligibility for naturalization again.
The competent departments supervising naturalization decisions are now obligated to implement the court’s decision, which is the most important thing, according to al-Ghazi.
As a result of communication and legal efforts with the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management, of which al-Ghazi was a part, it was concluded that the return of the removed files will include only those whose files were removed “unlawfully” or with an unverifiable justification.
Those justifications were limited to two things, the first being the presence of forged papers and the second proving links or contacts with people or groups on the Turkish government’s blacklist.
Al-Ghazi said the files removed outside of these two justifications will be returned to the appeal if there is no security problem and stressed the importance of reviewing specialized lawyers because all files may not be automatically returned to all persons.
Will the naturalization process continue after the elections?
Al-Ghazi believes that the naturalization process will continue even after the Turkish elections, as it has been noticed in the recent period that there has been an increase in the number of new files to apply for citizenship, which take from one to two years as a maximum to receive the naturalization decision.
In the event that the new files are subject to the pre-election period, it is impossible for people to receive the naturalization decision within a period of six months or less, and this indicates its continuation.
“The process of opening new files has accelerated, but the time period for naturalization is the same,” al-Ghazi assured.
According to BBC Turkish (Türkçe), the fateful game is not in the hands of the Syrians and is not governed by qualifications or skills, as the criteria for “exceptional nationality” were not specified in the Turkish Nationality Law.
Syrians subject to the “temporary protection law” obtain “exceptional nationality” through nomination by the Ministry of the Interior. Their files are submitted to the Directorate General of Migration Management, then transferred to the Directorate General of Civil Registration and Citizenship Affairs to undergo eight stages of research and scrutiny until receiving the naturalization decision.
Neva Öztürk, a law professor at Ankara University, told BBC Turkish that obtaining “exceptional citizenship” is a matter of discretion, as not every successful investor or athlete can obtain it.
Öztürk stressed the need for specific criteria within the law for cases in which citizenship can be obtained and that naturalization should not be an administrative procedure only.
According to a statement issued by the Directorate General of Civil Registration and Citizenship Affairs on 2 December 2022, the number of Syrians who obtained Turkish citizenship reached a total of 221,671 Syrians, of whom 125,563 are over the legal age.
The number of Syrians in Turkey registered under “temporary protection” has reached 3,528,835 Syrian refugees, according to statistics issued by the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management, on 5 January 2023.
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